My Experience with Cults

I came out a while back on Facebook and admitted to belonging to a cult.

My kids suspected it almost twenty years ago when I started wearing lycra cycling shorts, which back then had a chamois pad made from real leather, by the way.  When I built my new bike this summer and found a killer deal on the top-of-the-line, Campagnolo  Super Record carbon crankset with ceramic ultimate level technology bearings that spin in Cronitecht steel races, I realized there was no need to hide it any more, no covering it up with black tape.

I have joined the Campy Cult.

(By the way, google “campy cult” and you are likely to get “Rocky Horror Show, campy cult classic.)

Campy Crank

Ceramic Ultimate Level Technology

I admit it’s a bit ridiculous for me to have elite racing equipment on my bike.  Kind of like Danny DiVito thinking if he wears the same shoes as Michael Jordan he can beat him in a slam dunk contest.

Bicycling Magazine in the current issue (December 2011) has a great article on the Campagnolo company, one of the last hold outs against the pressures of globalization.  While everyone else is chasing cheap labor and outsourcing production to the far east, the family owned company continues to use highly skilled, well-paid craftsman in Vincenza, Italy.

It used to be that nearly every rider in the Tour de France–always the winners– used Campagnolo components.  But that changed with Lance Armstrong.  Never faithful to the women in his life, he was steadfastly monogamous in his loyalty to his sponsors.  Shimano parts worked well enough for him to win seven championships.

When Campy first came out with a ten-speed set of rear sprockets, Lance continued to win with only nine cogs in the rear and waited patiently for Shimano to introduce their own ten-speed cassette.  We devotees of the classic Italian components concede that Lance was just that good–he was able to win on inferior equipment (with one gear tied behind his back, you might say).

We just hope the company survives the coming economic Armageddon in Italy.  As one cycling legend said in the Bicycling article, “I’d rather walk than ride anything else.”

I’ll be back in a day or two with a report on the other cult I’m in danger of being drawn into . . .

What Are You Thinking?

My friends in Topeka, Kansas, tell me they have seen a bumper sticker that quotes Psalm 109 in reference to president Obama.  It’s not funny.

Maybe I’m sensitive because of where I live.

I sometimes have coffee in Aggieville and wonder if the ghost of Timothy McVeigh is lurking in the shadows.  Aggieville was the first place America’s worst domestic terrorist was arrested.  It was just a bar room fight when he was a soldier stationed at nearby Fort Riley, but he went on to worse things.

A few years after that incident, McVeigh and his accomplice rented a big white truck and filled up with gas in Riley County  before they drove it to Oklahoma City and killed 19 children at America’s Kid’s Daycare Center, along with 150 adults.

During the nineties fanatics were speaking in apocalyptic terms about the evils of Bill Clinton and his wife.  They were talking about concentration camps in the Southwest and Blackhawk helicopters.  They were painting David Koresh as an innocent victim whose righteous blood called for vengeance.  For most it was just talk.  But Tim McVeigh was listening.

Or maybe it’s the hideous figure of America’s worst living hatemonger, Fred Phelps, whom I sometimes have to drive past.  Fred and family give hate speech a bad name.  In February I attended a conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Midwestern Baptist Seminary.  One of the seminary’s graduates had been murdered in church, and Fred and his pitiful band of followers came to picket.

After fifteen years of hate speech directed at physician George Tiller–someone finally listened.  The doctor who performed late-term abortions in Wichita was finally murdered.  It happened on a Sunday morning as he was serving as an usher at his church.

Late term abortion is a gruesome and traumatic procedure–and sometimes a tragic necessity.  Under Kansas law at the time Dr. Tiller was murdered, it was legal only when the mother’s health was endangered.  The law was not strict enough for some, but too strict for others.  But my point is this–murder was not the answer; but people kept chanting “Tiller the Killer” until someone took it seriously.

We have a peaceful way of changing national leaders every four years.  In the meantime, the Bible tells us to pray for our leaders–it doesn’t tell us to take a curse out of context and pray it.  You are entitled to your political opinions–but think about the effects of hate speech:

  1. It may set off an unbalanced person.
  2. It reflects on all Christians and makes us look like ignorant bigots.

In Romans 2:24 Paul quotes from Isaiah, in a passage referring to the people God chose to represent his love and goodness to the world–

God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.

How about that for a bumper sticker?

How Many White Men Does it Take . . . ?

OK, the answer is–whatever the punchline–

That’s not funny!

I was going to ask, “How many white men does it take to say a bland and boring prayer?” But it turns out that white guys are more sensitive than I realized.

Some of my brethren were offended and hurt by the Rev. Joseph Lowery’s rhyming conclusion to his inaugural benediction.

That’s right, the same people who are afraid that Hate Crime legislation might stifle their freedom of speech, the good ol’ boys who laughed at all the wrong places in Gran Tourino, the gentlemen who can sling around racist and sexist remarks and then respond to anyone who raises an eyebrow–

Oh, I forgot–it’s not politically correct (snicker) to say that!

All my rowdy buddies might not be able to enjoy Superbowl Sunday, because their feelings have been hurt, their inner child wounded.

And what were the offending words? Well, it was more what he implied than what he said . . . But when Rev. Lowery implored the Lord to help–

White embrace what is right–

why some sensitive souls took that to suggest that maybe some white folks some of the time might not always embrace what is right.

Surely he wasn’t thinking of way back in 2008 when crowds at Republican campaign rallies shouted, “Kill him!” when Obama’s name was mentioned.  That’s living in the past, man.  Why can’t he get over it?

Me? I can’t shoot a jump shot and I can’t dance, but I do have a sense of humor.  Lowery’s rhyming cadences were a light-hearted reminder that the times are a’changing, but there are still some  changes needed.  It made the prayer, colorful, even fun.  The two prayers that were broadcast, and the one that HBO censored, represented the diversity (sorry white guys, didn’t mean to offend you again) that makes up our country.

(Click here for the text of Lowery’s Inaugural Benediction.)

A Post-Racist World

Two years ago Jürgen Moltmann was interviewed on his 80th birthday.  The interviewer asked him if young people need to be given more evidence for belief in God.  Looking back over the horrors of the earlier years of the twentieth century and then the amazing changes that came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he said,

We’ve seen so many signs and wonders in our lifetime.

He referred to the peaceful end of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and the end of oppressive regimes throughout Eastern Europe.

Forty years ago it was just a dream that people would be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.  Now it is a reality.

Tomorrow we will inaugurate our first Hawaiian-born president.  The nationality of his father and the complexion of his mother did not matter.  People voted either for or against Barack Obama based on their perception of his leadership qualities and the political platform he espoused.

Of course, there were a few during the campaign who tried to appeal to the race card, those who appealed to base motives, those who promoted racist jokes and songs.  There are still a few who always include his middle name–pronounced with a sneer.  But they had no influence.  The belong with the shrinking crowd of those who still deny that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

Philip Yancey’s book Soul Survivor tells how his faith survived in spite of the failings of the church of his youth, an openly racist church.  The story is heart breaking.  But he also tells how he was inspired by those churches that supported the civil rights movement, those churches and Christian leaders who formed the heart of the movement.

I was asked yesterday what the Bible says about racism.  Racism, in the Nazi sense, was a twentieth-century mythology, a modern invention.  But there have always been ethnic, cultural, religious, and nationalistic divisions among people.  The Apostle Paul devoted his life to proclaiming the reconciling Gospel of Jesus Christ.  One passage that sums it up is Colossians 3:11.  Speaking of God’s intention to create a new humanity, he says,

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.

The day after the election, my daughter, who lives in Harlem, saw an African-American boy, about ten years old, who was beaming.  “That means I can be president some day!”

It really is a miracle that I have seen the end of racism in my lifetime.

Yes We Can!

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder

Here’s the link to Bob the Builder’s official website.  My grandson has been listening to his theme song for about a year now:

Can we fix it?

Yes we can!

Here’s a little tidbit my daughter passed on: President Obama website:

You can submit you ideas and be part of the “change we need.”

http://www.change.gov/

This is pretty neat, I hadn’t heard about this Web site until my friend Melissa mentioned it yesterday. It’s the Obama web site for the transition. It’s supposed to have a lot of information about appointments in the future, but it already has a lot on different issues and places to submit ideas.

Here’s the energy environment page too: http://www.change.gov/agenda/energyenvironment/

Soldier and Mom

Our friend Margaret passed on this exchange of emails she had with her son Klint, who is stationed in Iraq, regarding the election of Barack Obama as our next president.

Mom to Soldier the day after the election

Klint,

I got your message yesterday evening on my cell phone voice mail.  Did you send it on Tuesday?  Anyway, good to hear your voice!

Don’t know how you feel about the elections, but I am so excited, I could “pee my pants” so to speak.  I’m so tired of “Old white men” running the country  This is an incredible breath of fresh air.  Hope Obama lives up the my expectations!  What a chance for change!  Feels like the 70’s!

Love, Mom