a lesson in literary criticism from governor schwarzenegger

Letter from California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to

A letter from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. While a typical reading of the letter states, "the fact that major issues are overlooked while many unnecessary bills come to me for consideration," and concludes, "I believe it is unnecessary to sign this measure at this time," a vertical reading of the far-left-hand letters in each of lines reads: "I f@#k you."

there is no way on earth that this can be a coincidence. so, i shall interpret this as an exercise by governor schwarzenegger in literary criticism.

our beloved governator, arnold schwarzenegger, has a pair of brass ones. and it’s why i still like him.

schwarzenegger recently vetoed a poposed bill by california assemblyman tom ammiano dealing with the financing of the port of san francisco. schwarzenegger followed with a letter explaining his decision.

an article by phillip matier and andrew ross in the san francisco chronicle points out:

A straight reading of the guv’s letter laments “the fact that major issues are overlooked while many unnecessary bills come to me for consideration,” and concludes, “I believe it is unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.”

But a vertical read of the far-left-hand letters in each of the missive’s eight lines offers a more blunt explanation: “I f- you.”

apparently the governor vetoed the measure after a few choice words from ammiano to schwarzenegger:

the veto message came after Ammiano called the governor a liar and shouted from the audience to “kiss my gay ass” when Schwarzenegger unexpectedly showed up at a Democratic Party dinner in San Francisco on Oct. 7.

Ammiano later called Schwarzenegger’s attendance at the event a “cheap publicity stunt” that wasn’t at all amusing, in light of the governor’s cuts in social services, ordered furloughs of state workers and failure to act on some gay-rights issues.

so, after the governor heard what ammiano had to say, and with ammiano’s bill still on his desk, schwarzenegger vetoed it. of course, there were certainly some policy and political concerns involved, and this wasn’t done simply done out of spite, but i like the way coincidence always seems to rear its head at the most opportune times.

and that’s how it is done. just like the great acrostics of the hebrew bible, governor schwarzenegger sent a message to the democratic assemblyman and sent him a letter too.

how to worship (or at least look like you are)

this is an instant classic! it is perhaps the best parody instructional video on emoti-worship i’ve ever seen.

seriously, now you know why i do not clap, raise my hands, or make the ‘going poo’ faces in worship. i’m busy thinking about what is being said and how i can incorporate it into my life. i’m all for rocking out, but i don’t feel compelled to act out the words of the songs i sing. we are not in an early 80’s mtv music video when we’re in church. i’m especially opposed to those who order me to ‘stand up’ in the middle of a song or look at me funny (like i’m not really into the song) when i don’t clap at all as loud as they are.

i’ll make you a deal: i’ll start standing up when we sing ‘we stand up’ and raising my hands when we sing ‘we lift our hands’ when the rest of you get on the floor and start bowing every time we sing ‘we bow down.’ deal?

if you want to express yourself in worship, fine. but don’t expect me to join in the interpretative dance. people worship in different ways. no one is better than the other. my style happens to be one involving cerebral reflection and intellectual consideration of the words being said. i do feel emotion, but i don’t feel others need to see it in order for it to be real.

anywho, check out the video.

(with thanx to jim west and stephen smuts)

8 months later: bar finally ‘reports’ on the golb scandal

Raphael Golb

Raphael Golb, son of Norman Golb

Norman Golb

University of Chicago historian Norman Golb

Hershel Shanks, Editor of Biblical Archaeology Review

Biblical Archaeology Review Editor Hershel Shanks


biblical archaeology review has finally ‘reported‘ the march 5, 2009 arrest of raphael golb. while they did mention it in a byline news blurb a few months ago, the magazine that has arguably made its name reporting the original dead sea scrolls ‘scandal’ and other scandals from the world of biblical archaeology (remember the ‘fleas‘ issue 16/2 of mar/apr 1990) has finally acknowledged the existence of the dead sea scrolls scandal of this decade: the identity theft and smear campaign of raphael golb on behalf of his father, university of chicago history professor norman golb and his largely unaccepted views on the origin of the dead sea scrolls and the nature of qumran. (be sure to read the interesting comments following the chicago maroon article by sara jerome.)

Biblical Archaeology Review Cover of March/April 1990 issue (Vol. 16, No.2)

according to the very short, unsigned report in the strata section, bar states:

According to an indictment handed down last summer by a Manhattan grand jury, son Raphael adopted some unorthodox methods to support his father’s views. The indictment charges Raphael Golb with assuming the identity of prominent Dead Sea Scroll scholar Lawrence Schiffman of New York University; the indictment charges Raphael Golb with creating more than 50 e-mail accounts and dozens of internet blogs, in which Raphael Golb (posing as Schiffman) espoused the views of Norman Golb and (again, as Schiffman) confessed to plagiarizing from Norman Golb.

Raphael Golb also allegedly opened other e-mail accounts in the names of Dead Sea Scroll scholars Jonathan Seidel and Stephen Goranson.

that’s it. other than a brief introduction that can be read for free on the website, the two remaining paragraphs are little more than information gleaned from the manhattan da’s press release from march 2009.

for a magazine (bar) and an editor (shanks) that appear to crave controversy and love the dead sea scrolls, this story seems like a no-brainer. in fact, it has been somewhat of a mystery why bar has not already run a feature length exposé or two on this story. it hasn’t been on the cover. it has received no in depth investigation. it hasn’t even attracted from bar a simple investigative inquiry that bar readers have come to expect on issues relating to biblical archaeology. the intriguing story of a man using the cloak of the anonymous internet to weave together a network of aliases to write blogs, send emails, leave comments, send letters, dupe media outlets, harass in a most aggravated manner, and in the end, steal the identity of and impersonate another scholar, all in an effort to promote norman golb and criticize his perceived opponents has been largely ignored, save for this late acknowledgment and the initial byline news item.

some have speculated why shanks may have held his tongue on this scandal. when hershel shanks published a facsimile of the dead sea scrolls manuscript mmt, prompting elisha qimron later to sue shanks and win in court, norman golb testified in shanks’ defense. some speculate that shanks has held his tongue as a form of repayment – a kind of ‘thank you’ to norman golb for earlier testifying on his behalf. of course, this is merely speculation, but it does give one pause because it appears to be completely out of character (and certainly not at all profitable) for shanks not to report this story (especially when there is so much evidence are so many details of the campaign catalogued on the internet and readily available to the public).

whatever the reason, biblical archaeology review has finally reported on the golb scandal. but this ‘report’ obviously lacks the expected vigor, insight, and detailed attention that mr. shanks regularly shows to other disputes, like the james ossuary, the talpiot tomb, the hazon gabriel, his ongoing rift with with shuka dorfman and the iaa, and other past dss-related issues. i know of one person who was recommended to mr. shanks by a respected qumran archaeologist as one who could knowledgeably write about this for bar, but as of the writing of this post, bar still has not contacted him. i’m beginning to wonder if this particular dead sea scrolls scandal is simply being given a ‘minimalist’ amount of attention for reasons other than a lack of a public interest. it seems the last time someone was arrested for a biblical archaeology related crime, bar paid a little more attention. in fact, they even held their own trial. (see also here and here and here and here.)

sometimes, the deafening silence says more than words ever can.

stanford to accept digital dissertations

The Seal of Stanford Universitythis is great news for scholars – both graduate students and professors.

stanford university has decided to accept digital dissertations. that’s right, you heard me correctly:

Put away your checkbook. Don’t bother buying reams of acid-free paper. Just hit the “submit” button to digitally upload dissertations under a new program that begins in November.

i was a year (and 312 miles) too soon. i would have loved to have a policy like that in place last september.

in my ucla doctoral dissertation (now available as a book), i provided a new methodology for testing digital reconstructions of archaeological remains in virtual reality. in writing my digital humanities dissertation, i lamented the fact that original research involving three dimensional reconstructions that are able to show complex architectural development over time is not suited for a two-dimensional printed page. while i can describe the methodology involved, the actual model i describe requires an actual three dimensional space to in order to be visualized, and a fourth dimension of time is required to see the diachronic development of the site.

but the resistance to ‘digital’ forms of published dissertations lies not in the technology, but in the traditional skepticism of the academy of anything other than a typewriter typed dissertation on acid-free paper. i said as much in the conclusion of my book:

This research also realizes the overt incompatibility of publishing a book involving digital reconstructions in three-dimensional space in the traditional paper and ink format. It is, of course, highly ironic that this three-dimensional research is looked down upon by many, who prefer the time-honored, traditional medium of the printed book, which cannot fully convey the technological approach described within its pages. It is as incomplete as literally trying to describe a picture with a thousand words! Thus, the present research calls on scholars, publishers, dissertation committees, and departments of archaeology, architecture, and other related programs to make themselves more accommodating to newer digital forms of publication. As the word processor has replaced the typewriter, so too will digital and three-dimensional formats soon replace analog and two-dimensional formats for publishing archaeological materials. These new digital formats should not be seen as “alternative” or lesser means of publication, but as “progressive” media that are on the cutting edge of modern archaeological research. (Cargill, Qumran through (Real) Time, p. 217-18)

apparently, stanford is listening:

Speaking at the Oct. 22 Faculty Senate meeting, University Librarian Michael Keller said the digital world offers a “much greater palette of expression” to graduate students, because they will be able to include more graphics, color and character sets in their dissertations than in paper copies.

not only can doctoral students print their research with greater ease and at a lesser expense, but other scholars will have greater and cheaper (read: free!) access to the new dissertations:

“We were clearly in favor of a less expensive alternative to ProQuest and one that has far greater intellectual reach through some agreement with Google or some other Internet carrier,” Roberts wrote in an email message.

in addition to cutting down on paper costs, helping the environment, ridding the tedious process of printing out multiple copies of a 300-page document, and not having to pay pro-quest to re-digitize a paper dissertation that was originally written in digital format on a computer, digital dissertations will allow for the publication of more innovative technological research in the sciences and digital humanities. this process preserves the rigorous process of ensuring credible research approved by a disertations committee, but eliminates the hassles of printing, which are now nearly obsolete since most of us read others’ dissertations online anyway.

i applaud the move and encourage ucla to adopt a similar policy.

on the success of the toronto rom dead sea scrolls exhibit

4Q271_Damascus_Doc-b

4Q271 - A fragment of the Damascus Document

the jewish tribune is reporting that the dead sea scrolls exhibition in toronto is doing quite well. i wish i could say as much for the jewish tribune, who not only misspelled two of the three names of exhibit curator risa levitt kohn (they said ‘Resa Levitt Cohen‘), but also underrepresented the number of visitors to the museum by, oh, about 200,000 people.

Since the June 27 opening of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, more than 160,000 visitors have gone to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to view the display, which is “about ideas and values as much as artifacts and ideology,” said William Thorsell, the ROM’s CEO.

the problem is (and it is a good problem to have) that the attendance is much closer to 400,000 than the 160,00 that the jewish tribune reported. the attendance is even more impressive in the light of the numerous attempts by anti-israel and pro-palestinian protest groups to drive visitors away from the museum.

congratulations to the royal ontario museum in toronto on a successful exhibition. many congratulations to curator risa levitt kohn on her patience and persistence in bringing not one, but two successful dead sea scrolls exhibitions to north america (despite the nonsense ;-).

snl spoofs online universities

SNL "Online University Commercial" sketch on Hulu

SNL "Online University Commercial" sketch on Hulu

i recently posted about the perils of attending online internet colleges. now, snl has joined in the fun and spoofed online universities. check it out.

on the balancing act between faith and credible archaeology

i recently received a letter via facebook that asked an intriguing question: how does one do archaeology and still retain one’s faith?

the question alone gave me pause because it implied that doing science will ultimately lead one to renounce one’s belief in god, or at the very least shatter one’s theological understanding of the world.

this issue comes up again and again with students. essentially, archaeology students soon learn that while some of the passages and claims made within the bible are consistent with archaeological findings, many others are not. this quickly leads a person of faith to make one of two choices: either to cling to one’s faith and begin to look for alternate ‘methodologies’ that could explain the bible’s claims that are inconsistent with the archaeological evidence, or, to accept the scientific data and re-examine one’s religious preconceptions. afraid to admit that what they were taught or have believed for so long might be wrong, many students opt for clinging to their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the bible and seek out new ways to interpret the data so that it is congruent with their preconceived beliefs. yet, this methodology leads only to poor science, even poorer interpretations of the data, and ultimately to misleading claims about the nature of the remains.

sometimes, archaeology is nothing more than boring rocks in the ground. but the true archaeologist does not seek out the big discovery that changes all we know in one amazing find, but rather gives his or her life to seasons of excavation and discovery, letting the evidence speak for itself until the larger picture of the social, economic, and yes, at times, religious makeup of the society is slowly revealed.

so for those seeking to balance faith and archaeology, here are a few tips:

  1. follow the data wherever it leads. sometimes the data doesn’t line up with the text of the bible. this is true about many sites and many verses. in some places, the text just isn’t supported by the evidence. this does not mean that the bible does not contain truth in other places, but it does tell us a lot about the author and the message the author was attempting to convey. remember, even the early church father origen offered a straightforward explanation of the preservation of factual truth within documents edited by human hands. in his commentary on john 10:4, origen says, ‘the spiritual truth was often preserved, as one might say, in material falsehood.’ just because a factual error exists in the text of the bible doesn’t mean that truth cannot still be conveyed.
  2. follow sound scientific methodology. if your methodology is good, your claims will be better received, and you (and/or your organization) will retain credibility. don’t fudge. take good notes, log everything (especially if it is contrary to your hypothesis), and don’t cut corners. methodical monotony is boring, but will be your friend in the long run. baby steps, small turns, an inch at a time. it is by the archaeological method employed that the academy will judge an archaeologist. credibility is earned over a long period of time, not with a single find.
  3. not every ‘biblical archaeology’ object is the same. just because noah’s ark and the holy grail are most likely legendary, doesn’t mean the ancient israelites didn’t carry a gold covered wooden box (the ark of the covenant) around in front of them when they marched into battle (like every other army at the time). each object is unique and should be treated as such. walls and pots are often (read: usually) more important than gold and silver. treat every object with respect, wash every sherd, and always check for writing.
  4. partner up. the best way to earn credibility as an archaeologist is to partner with and work for an established, credible archaeologist or excavation. don’t seek to strike out on your own too quickly. this requires substantial fundraising and once you begin asking for funds more than you dig, scholars begin to question your motives, your credibility drops, and your conclusions will be questioned more often. be humble. pay your dues. earn your stripes. and then, when you have established the credibility and education you need, work with the authorities to secure your own excavation.
  5. never, ever search for the ark of the covenant, noah’s ark, or the holy grail. adventure quests will always bring immediate derision and condemnation from the academy. never claim to be the first to discover anything; someone else has already done something similar. cite them! remember that most scholars rightly reject any primordial notion of god destroying the earth with a flood; they opt instead to see this story as a parallel to the gilgamesh epic or some other early flood narrative. sensational claims are the quickest way to expose oneself as a fundamentalist. know the literature, read, and always see what your opponents have to say before you make a claim.
  6. submit to the peer-review process. the most credible archaeologists submit to the peer-review process and allow their findings to be critiqued by the academy. submit articles for publication in refereed journals and present papers at national conferences. welcome criticism and feedback. this is the only way to ensure your that interpretations will gain the traction they need to become the accepted consensus.

ultimately, it’s not about what you believe, or even what you can prove. rather, a credible archaeologist or archaeology program is judged by the methodology it uses to reach its conclusions. if the science is good, and the results are published in credible journals, the program as well as the scholar will be a success.

university church of christ in malibu appoints search committee to replace departing preacher dr. ken durham

Dr. Nancy Magnusson Durham

Dr. Nancy Magnusson Durham

Dr. Ken Durham

Dr. Ken Durham

a sad day is upon us. my friend, dr. ken durham, preaching minister at the university church of christ in malibu, ca, is departing. ken will be taking an endowed position, the batsell barrett baxter chair of preaching at david lipscomb university. his wife, dr. nancy magnusson durham, will become a senior vice president at the university.

i shall miss ken durham. he has been a role model to me and a wonderful example of a scholar who always seeks to make peace with parties often pulling him in different directions. he has been a model of stability, consistency, forgiveness, and patience throughout the time i have known him. he has shown me how to overcome personal adversity and harness it to become a better man and teacher. i will miss my friend dearly.

i shall also miss nancy. nancy has been the model of effective female leadership in my professional career, and a truly sympathetic voice of reason in my life. she is personally responsible for much of my success as a technologist, and she has perhaps been the single most encouraging person to me at pepperdine. i shall continue to value her advice. and i shall eternally be fans of both ken and nancy durham.

the university church of christ in malibu

our local congregation will also miss ken tremendously. the membership of the university church of christ in malibu can be said to be made up of three basic groups: 1) resident members comprised mostly of pepperdine university employees and their families, 2) a dwindling number of young professionals and families between the ages of 25-45 years old, and 3) students that attend the church for 4 (sometimes 5, 6…) years while they are attending pepperdine. there are also a handful of us that have no formal affiliation with the university any longer and do not work for pepperdine that attend the university church of christ in malibu.

this demographic has changed significantly over the past decade. the demographic shift is the result of a change in the way the elders view and minister to its members. for many of the early years of the university church of christ in malibu, the church understood its mission as one of service to the students of pepperdine university. because the church met on campus and was led and attended by employees of the university, the members saw their role in the church as supporting the students. just as these educators spent their academic lives training up young men and women for deployment into the workforce, so too did these same scholars support the spiritual development of the students by their participation in the university church of christ.

however, about a decade ago, this mission of the university church of christ in malibu changed. with the expansion of the drescher campus overlooking pepperdine, a greater number of resident members began to ask what the church could do for them instead of what they could do for the pepperdine students they were hired to teach. they began to look at other churches of christ in other towns that possessed colleges affiliated with the churches of christ and saw that those other churches had their own unique presence in their respective communities, distinct from the nearby universities. these other churches owned their own buildings, had their own expansive staffs, and possessed a stand-alone organizational structure that included a full range of youths, college students, young professionals, and young families, as well as established resident members. differences between the unique mission and makeup of the university church of christ in malibu and other ‘normal’ churches began to be articulated. as a result, the leadership of the university church of christ in malibu decided to raise money for a church building, expand its staff, and provide those services for which the established resident members had been asking. they no longer wanted to be a unique church of christ on a unique university campus serving the students, rather, they wanted to look more like other ‘normal’ churches of christ.

this shift in focus was coupled with a shift away from evangelizing and ministering to the entire pepperdine student body, and shifted towards serving the much smaller number of declared ‘church of christ’ students on campus. only ~15% of the students attending pepperdine are declared members of the churches of christ; in fact, there are more declared catholics at pepperdine than church of christ students. the elders felt they should ‘preserve the brand’ of the churches of christ as a denomination heritage, and focus primarily upon meeting the needs of the church of christ students. this choice relegated service to the entire pepperdine student body to a secondary mission. some have said that this shift was to aid the university in reminding the world that pepperdine was still, in fact, a ‘church of christ’ school like harding university, abilene christian, freed-hardeman, david lipscomb, oklahoma christian, and others. but, because so many of the pepperdine christian students attend nearby malibu presbyterian, st. aidan’s, our lady of malibu, and other non-church of christ worship services off campus, this shift has resulted in smaller numbers at sunday morning university church of christ worship services, and in increased criticism of the privileged place these church of christ students, now only a small minority at pepperdine, hold within the university. while the university church of christ campus ministers were charged with reaching out to the entire campus, their primary focus became ministry to the ‘cofc’ students. this is truly lamentable.

while he was the preaching minister of the university church of christ, dr. ken durham did what he could to reach out not only to non-church of christ students, but to other denominations, faiths, and even non-believers within the malibu community and the greater los angeles area. not unexpectedly, filling ken’s very large shoes (literally, he is ~6’5″) will be difficult. but the elders of the university church of christ in malibu appear to be up to the challenge. the first step in replacing ken is to empanel a search committee.

the search committee

the elders sent out an appeal to those interested in sitting on the search committee for the new university church of christ in malibu preaching minister. however, in forming the search committee, the elders seem to have stumbled out of the gate.

(now in the name of full disclosure, i asked to be considered for this search committee and was not chosen. you are free to claim sour grapes on my part, but the issues i raise below have nothing to do with me. besides, i figured there was no way in she’ol that they would actually name me to the committee, and i was proved correct.)

the committee that was appointed by the elders includes the following (in alphabetical order):

name title sex race employer
janet davis assistant to the dean of seaver college female white pepperdine employee
rich dawson director of international student services male white pepperdine employee
rick gibson vice president of public affairs male white pepperdine employee
stuart love retired professor of religion and elder male white retired pepperdine employee
carolyn nicks center for the family board member female white wife of former pepperdine employee
tim perrin* vice dean of the law school and elder male white pepperdine employee
darryl tippens provost of pepperdine university male white pepperdine employee
linda truschke campus minister female white pepperdine employee
student member (tbd) student ? ? pepperdine student
* committee chair

i respect each and every one of the individuals chosen for this committee. each brings a seasoned perspective to the group. ms. davis is one of the most organized, hardest working individuals i’ve ever met. mr. dawson is a cheerful and kind administrator, who does his job very well. mr. gibson is thoughtful, clever, and refreshingly insightful. dr. love was my professor and is a respected advocate for women’s equality in the church. ms. nicks is a committed advocate of the university and respected member of the community. dean perrin is a friendly and approachable leader with innovative ideas. provost tippens is perhaps one of the most learned, forward thinking scholars i know. and ms. truschke is a dear friend whose empathy and mercy is cherished by the students she serves. each of the committee members is a wonderful choice and are valuable assets to pepperdine and the university church of christ in malibu.

the elders of the university church of christ in malibu

 

Dr. David Baird

Dr. David Baird

 

Dr. Ron Highfield

Dr. Ron Highfield

 

Dr. Stuart Love

Dr. Stuart Love

 

Dr. Stephen Parmelee

Dr. Steve Parmelee

 

Dr. Tim Perrin

Dr. Tim Perrin

 

Dr. Milt Shatzer

Dr. Milt Shatzer

 

Dr. John Wilson

Dr. John Wilson

the elders of the university church of christ in malibu have assembled a search committee. the problem with this group, however, lies not with the chosen individuals, but with the committee’s aggregate composition. the makeup of the overall committee betrays much about how the elders view the congregation. for instance, our congregation is led by seven older white men, all of whom are or were employees of pepperdine university. their perspective on the world and how our congregation should operate within it is revealed in the assembly of this search committee, and it is the assembly of this committee that necessitates a few brief observations.

1. the entire committee is white. for a congregation that has struggled to integrate minorities and people of color, the racial makeup of this committee sends a very bad message. while pepperdine’s student statistics state that at least 40% of the undergraduate student body claims to be a minority or person of color, this percentage is markedly less within the membership of university church of christ in malibu. the failure to place a minority representative on the search committee confirms this unfortunate reality. it is said that 11:00 am on sunday morning is still the most segregated hour in america. the assembly of this search committee certainly does nothing to combat this notion, nor the reality of the very white sunday morning worship services at the university church of christ in malibu. the elders cannot lament the lack of racial diversity in the university church of christ in malibu if they are not willing to at the very least appoint a minority or person of color to represent these already grossly underrepresented groups in the church. appointing an all-white committee leaves the elders open to criticism of doing nothing to promote racial diversity within the church.

2. the entire committee is old(er). there is no member of the committee that is younger than their mid-40s (with the exception of the influential token student rep who is quite tellingly yet to be named). who on this committee speaks for the young adults? there will be a student rep, but the next youngest member of the committee is in her mid-40s. the message to recent graduates, graduate students, young professionals, and young married couples is that your opinion doesn’t count. you don’t really give that much money to the church because you aren’t yet making that much money. many of the young adults don’t live on campus like the resident members. because of this, they are apparently out of sight and out of mind. essentially, if you are between the ages of 25-40, you don’t count, or at least your opinion doesn’t count. perhaps this is why the university church of christ in malibu has been hemorrhaging young adults and young married couples over the past decade, who are leaving for other congregations where their opinion matters and their service is valued. the elders of the university church of christ in malibu cannot lament the mass migration of many of the young couples and young professionals to other churches (namely, the conejo valley church of christ in thousand oaks, ca) if they are not willing to make young adults and young married couples a priority. the makeup of this search committee leaves the elders open to criticism of continued negligence of this particular important demographic.

3. the entire committee is affiliated with pepperdine university. all of the members of the committee are or were employees or spouses of employees of the university. this may not seem like much of a big deal, but for a congregation that regularly reminds all who will listen that it is independent from pepperdine university (on whose campus the church is allowed to meet for free), the fact that each and every committee member is affiliated with the university speaks a great deal. certainly, employees of the university must also answer to their university administrators, meaning that members of the search committee are potentially capable of being influenced by university officials. the fact that every member of the committee is a pepperdine employee or sits on a board of some sort affiliated with pepperdine demonstrates the intertwined reality that is pepperdine university and the university church of christ. indeed, like the offering after communion, it does seem that the university church of christ in malibu and pepperdine university are ‘separate and apart,’ yet synonymous entities depending on what is convenient at any given moment. (seriously, how many more times shall we change our name back and forth between the ‘malibu church of christ’ and the ‘university church of christ’ in an attempt to win the graces of a pepperdine president in order to secure a real church building? and how is that working?)

this failure to distinguish between church and university is exacerbated by the fact that all seven elders of the university church of christ in malibu are or were pepperdine university employees. likewise, the building for which the church has been raising money to build is slated for construction on the pepperdine campus (even though it is buried beneath hundreds of tons of earth displaced from other apparently more important pepperdine building projects. cf. hag. 1:4). for a congregation that claims to be one that wishes to reach out to the malibu and greater los angeles communities (especially back when we were the ‘malibu church of christ’), it seems that the control of the church lies deeply nestled within those heavily invested in pepperdine. thus, the elders cannot lament the fact that very few malibu residents, who are unaffiliated with the university, are members of the university church of christ in malibu if they are not willing to represent this demographic in their leadership and search committees. failure to place a member of the congregation who is unaffiliated with pepperdine university leaves the elders open to criticism that they are taking orders (or at least having to clear their decisions) about whom to hire from top-level pepperdine administrators. at the very least, it leaves the elders open to criticism that they are not leading, but rather taking orders from the influential donors that give to both the church and pepperdine.

more than one of the elders have told me on more than one occasion that there are ’30 giving units’ at the university church in malibu. that is, there are only 30 individuals or couples that regularly contribute a substantial amount of money to the church. this number may be smaller now as some of these individuals and couples have left the university church in malibu since this statistic was first conveyed to me a few years ago. but the fact that one or more of the elders know precisely who regularly writes checks to the church is telling. it is quite apparent that those who give to a local congregation have influence over the direction the congregation. and since the elders have identified whom these people are, it is not surprising that the members of the search committee are older, established, and have strong ties to the university, from which they receive their paychecks.

of course, young professionals and recent graduates have not worked as much, are still dealing with the student loans and debts pertaining to the expensive costs of their educations (one year as an undergraduate at pepperdine is now $48, 750), and simply cannot give as much money to the church. but this is no reason not to represent them or to discount their opinions, input, or service to the church. yet, no member of the search committee is from the young professional demographic of 25-40 years old, and this is again quite telling of the elders’ opinion of them.

apparently, the golden rule truly applies at the university church of christ in malibu: those that have the gold make the rules. if you give a substantial amount to the church regularly, your voice is heard. otherwise, your opinion isn’t worth much. if you work for pepperdine, your opinion matters; you possess the potential of influencing university officials to make decisions favorable to the church. likewise, because you are an employee of the university, you can be ‘leaned upon’ by the pepperdine administration (many of whom are influential in the church). because those leading the university church of christ in malibu are also influential leaders within the university, employee-members are more likely to stay in line, go along with the elders’ decisions, jump through all the hoops, and not criticize or challenge decisions made by the church elders. the potential fear of missing out on coveted overseas appointments, not being named to key committees, having the ‘pepper-vine’ rumor mill and gossip lounge sully and destroy their reputations, or even losing their pepperdine jobs are all quite compelling reasons to hold one’s tongue. conversely, those of us who have no affiliation with the university and do not work for pepperdine cannot be fired, and cannot therefore be retaliated against should we choose to question or criticize decisions made by the elders. thus, those who do not work for pepperdine cannot be easily influenced by the church elders, and are therefore less likely to be asked to participate in decision making and leadership roles. perhaps it is as simple as this: they don’t want you if they can’t control you.

(now, to their credit, the elders are not openly hostile towards those who do not agree with the direction they are leading the church. they are fully aware of this blog, my positions on some of their decisions, and yet have always treated me professionally and cordially, and for that i am grateful. i shall continue to treat them professionally and shall continue to refrain from making personal critical comments about them as individuals. i appreciate their willingness to subject themselves to the critique of the members of the congregation they shepherd without retaliation. again, the purpose of my comments is not to harm them personally, but to offer some form of accountability from a member of the congregation who happens to be highly skilled in biblical studies and who is deeply invested in the reformation and ultimate success of the university church of christ in malibu. this form of open dialogue (or monologue thus far) is good for the church. if the leaders of any organization cannot stand up to commentary and criticism from those they lead, they are not fit to lead and are not worthy of our respect. i do not post all of my communications with the elders in this blog, as i am a true believer in professionalism, confidence, and the preservation of the distinction between public and private communications as well as the distinction between personal and professional roles. i look forward to a continued dialogue with the elders and all those who read this blog.)

conclusion

we have a difficult challenge ahead of us. it will be nearly impossible to replace a preacher as skilled and beloved as ken durham. but somehow, hopefully, the leaders of our university church of christ in malibu will be able to select a preacher who possesses the ability to balance critical examination of the scriptures with an appealing presentation of informative and motivating sermons. i hope this committee will ask the tough questions, and not choose a candidate simply because he or she (here’s hoping) is related to someone at pepperdine. i pray the committee will select someone who will actually commit to preaching every sunday, and will not spend every third sunday touring the country as a guest preacher promoting his or her latest book. i hope the committee will select a preacher possessing the education and critical skill required to offer substantive homilies, and not simple fluff or the latest pop psychology. lastly, i hope the committee will choose a candidate that represents all of the congregation and appeals to students as well as those ~30 ‘giving units’ that the elders so readily seek to appease. for if the committee fails to make a wise decision, the university church of christ in malibu’s attendance numbers will continue to dwindle, until all that’s left are the select 30.

i hope the committee will choose the candidate that is best for the entire congregation.

here’s hoping.

professor tiggens makes it big time

thats professor tiggens starring on icanhascheezburger.com/

that's professor tiggens starring on icanhascheezburger.com/

professor tiggens cargill has made the big screen. well, he’s actually made the small screen. actually, he’s had a pic of him watching the small screen on http://icanhascheezburger.com/. we’re all very proud of him.

here’s a cat that both jim west and jim linville can both agree is cool.

the single greatest argument against junk science i have ever seen

intelligent_aliensthis is absolutely the best argument against ‘intelligent design,’ ancient aliens, and all other forms of junk science, pseudoscience, and sensationalism i’ve seen. in this short clip, the narrator provides a satirical argument eviscerating the popular tendency of junk scientists to bypass critical method, peer-review, and all forms of scientific evidence to make an otherwise unfounded claim. the portion of the video that compares claims of alien involvement in the development of humanity’s various technologies to the present ‘intelligent design’ movement, which uses the court system and claims of academic freedom to advance non-scientific theories under threats of violation of the equal protection clause.

why produce evidence when you can claim that your ‘belief’ is free speech, and that it should be considered just as ‘possible’ as theories that have veritable support of actual scientific data?

you see, doing science is hard work. conducting original research, writing technical papers with lots of footnotes and publishing them in reputable journals where they’ll be critically examined by other highly trained scientists isn’t exactly easy. even if you are lucky enough to make it through the peer-review process unscathed, you still have to present your work at professional conferences, where the world’s experts will pick apart your assumptions and methods to find anything that you might have overlooked in your research. why would anybody voluntarily subject themselves to this madness? i can understand doing it to get some honest feedback, but if your mind is already made up, what’s the point of exposing yourself to criticism?

this is where i believe the intelligent alien intervention institute can learn a thing or two from the discovery institute, the driving force behind the ‘intelligent design’ movement. the ‘intelligent design’ movement has discovered how to effectively bypass the protocols traditionally used to weed out junk science. just think how useful such a loophole could be.

absolutely classic!

circular reasoning, public appeal, demonizing science and scientists, the use of the court system, the assistance of politicians and fundraising, and claims of freedom of expression are all tactics used by amateurs, hacks, pseudoscientists, and sensationalists to advance their claims when they possess no data to support them.

this video makes this point succinctly and in a most entertaining fashion. with thanx to michael heiser for the tip and creator gordon j. glover, give it a look.

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