The Pathological Truth Journal

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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Congratulations if you caught the Yes reference.

People think that because I am in public and look very calm even happy at times that I am not sad.  That isn’t the case.  I cry an insane amount by myself (which is the only way I can cry), I feel guilty, I get angry at myself and angry at my husband.  The strangest thing is that all of this isn’t bitter.  Yes.  I miss my husband more than I could have ever imagined.  However, I know I will see him again.  I do feel guilty and I know I wasn’t always the best wife.  However, I can confess my imperfection and receive forgiveness in Christ.  So, while all of these emotions suck terribly I also have peace.

Do you know what can challenge that peace and make me want to be vindictive?  Paypal.  I don’t want to advocate fraud but it would have been much easier to pretend I was my husband (since I have his password) and close the account myself.  But then they can prosecute you for that fraud.  Let me first tell you want I wanted Paypal to do.  All I want them to do is close my husband’s account which has a $0.00 balance so that people can’t accidentally send him something or try to withdraw something.  They won’t do that without a copy of his will or proof that I am the executor of his will (which is pretty much the will).

Not everyone has a will.  It is generally the law that unless there are strange circumstances everything simply moves to the surviving spouse when there is no will.  This involves probate court and you will be named by the court as the whatever they call it.  If you die without a will and the assets (property, bank accounts, cars, etc) that are not jointly held or have a named beneficiary are less than $50,000 you do not go through probate court.  The surviving spouse can simply fill out a small claims affidavit, which is a notarized document.  That’s it.  You are done.  It has been almost 4 months and every single government agency, financial institution, lending agency and utility company accepts this since it is the law.  Most ask me to prove that he is dead and I am me.  I have filled out a couple of affidavits.  That isn’t a big deal.  Even the taxes, which have frustrated me, at least have options to help a person out and try their best to be understanding.

Paypal does not play by the law even if you are not trying to get money from them.  Let me say that again.  I am not trying to claim anything.  I want the account of my dead husband closed.

I contacted Paypal customer service yesterday. (On a side note I am beginning to truly hate the automated electronic voice system. “Hmmm…  That doesn’t fit the choices I made you sit through.  Let’s try again.  Say: I want to pay my bill or can you please just get me to a customer service agent so I can talk to someone.”) I told the guy the situation.  I faxed to Paypal his death certificate, our marriage certificate and my driver’s license.  He is dead.  I am his surviving spouse.  I am who I am.  I figured if anything since they are an out of state agency they might ask for the affidavit.  Nope.  They emailed me this morning.  They want his will and no substitutions.  Also, they will not close his account they will transfer it to my name. I never asked them to do that.  I called customer service again and they said that is what they will do and what they want and there are no substitutions.  Oh, and the acknowledge that I have his password and asked that I get into his account and upload files.  So, they obviously have no issue with me being in his account where I could transfer all of that imaginary money anyway.

This would not piss me off so much except that my husband had a Paypal debit card solely in his name that I paid off and cancelled easily.  That agency first demanded that I pay them.  Fine.  It was his debt, it was linked to a joint account and in AZ the spouse is liable for most of the husband’s debt upon death.  (Except student loans.  Thank God!)  For Paypal, there is an incredible double standard when it comes to debt and accounts.  Granted it was the right thing to do anyway but it is irksome.

So, what to do?  I can’t make a retro-active will.  I can’t go back in time and say “Pooky Bear, you are going to die soon and leave me alone so be sure to draw up a will because everything will be difficult enough without you.”  At some point, being notified of his death, Paypal will need to close his account.  I have decided to send them the affidavit.  I have also decided to send them every documentation of my life with him.  I will send them every single paper I’ve got.

I am not asking that Paypal believe me and close this account with no proof.  I am not asking them for money.  I am asking them to kindly give me a small amount of financial peace in knowing this account can no longer be used either for genuine or fraudulent purposes.  I am asking for basic decency when it comes to something many of us will face at some point.  I am asking for understanding that not everyone dies having all of their affairs in order and to understand the chaos and emotional toll that takes for the person who is now responsible for all of it.  I am not asking this of the company but of the people who create and maintain the Paypal policies.  People’s lives can not be made to fit your rules you must create rules that fit the lives of the people using your service.

If you haven’t heard they are remaking “The 47 Ronin”.  I know I’ve seen the 1941 version and I can’t remember if it was the 1958 or 1962 version that I have also seen.  Then again, maybe it’s both.  I have a fondness for these movies.  I’m a huge Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Zatoichi and Akira Kurosawa fan.  They are awesome.  So, I took a look at what they have up for the remake of 47 Ronin.

I’m not a person who says a remake necessarily needs to be a movie re-made in exactly the same way.  Sometimes a little imagination is good.  So, the remake stars Keanu Reeves and he’s not my favorite actor and there isn’t an American in the story because it was the early 1700s.  They are modernizing it? I guess.  But when the trailer got to the dragon lady I had to stop.  No.  Not a “dragon lady” as in a strong and seductive lady of some Asian descent.  I mean a lady who turns into a dragon.  I’m all for fantasy sometimes.  But when you have to change so much in your story that it’s completely different then just make your own movie and call it something else.   Sharktopus didn’t try to be Jaws and it was awesome.

All of this did remind me that I really like the older movies.  I rented Sword Of Doom today which is one of my favorites.  Because it is a 24 streaming rental I watched it a lot.  I watched the heck out of that movie.  Nakadai is amazing in the way he can state his whole character without a word.  It is also in spite of all the killing a beautiful movie if a little heavy handed on the symbolism.

As I was watching this movie I tried to think of what would happen if there was a remake of Sword Of Doom.  So, taking bits and pieces from things I like and things I don’t like I created an IMDB-like page for this imaginary movie.  I give you the remake of Sword Of Doom.

I am trying to figure out the rest of my life.  I can not do what I have done.  As I have written my greatest joy (and often my greatest frustration) was supporting my husband in his ministry.  What is particularly strange right now is how people speak to me about those 14 years.  It’s almost as if they believe I married my husband in spite of his calling.  People say that now I can go on to do something else, that I am not tied to such a religious life.  Even more bizarre, they say I can date and sleep with whomever I wish.

I am who I am.  Maybe my personality is uniquely stubborn but I was who I was when I was married too.  In spite of my whining, my ego and worldly desires there is nothing more important than serving God.  Just like in spite of my tears, sorrow, grief and how much I miss my husband I am sure of God’s promise of eternal life through Christ.  The only thing that changed in my life from being single to married to single again is that I gained and then lost the one person to whom I spoke the most honestly and who knew me the best.  (More practically, my finances changed too but I can handle that.)

I married my husband because I loved him and that included his passion for teaching God’s Word.  I loved listening to him.  The discussions sparked ideas and artistic desires.  I wanted to love him and help him with my few talents.  I didn’t do it perfectly but that was my desire.  Although my vows have been fulfilled and in the eyes of the law I am no longer married to a pastor I am still who I am.  Remove my husband from a church and he would still teach God’s Word.  Remove me from him and everything important to me will still be there.  I just need time to figure out what the next step is.

It bothered me for about a few weeks when people would say these things.  Then, I thought about it.  We rarely see people as they are.  Rather we see them through the lens of our own ideals.  Additionally, people want to speak words of comfort even when they don’t know what to say.  In their own way, these people were trying to create some desire for this new (and honestly terrifying) part of life.  So, it comes out “here is what I wish for you to be excited about because it is what I would want.”

If I could have any life that I could right now it would be similar to what I had.  If I could do anything I would have a place where pastors and workers in the Church who have gone through rough times could come without fear of judgement.  It wouldn’t focus on the psychological issues but the spiritual exhaustion.  It would be served by other pastors in the area who would encourage and help these men.  It would be a place that would focus on Word, Sacrament and prayer.  It would have Bible studies.  It would give a chance in a quiet and contemplative manner for these men to remember why they loved teaching God’s Word and serving God’s people.  A chance for them to ease bitterness, anger and hear and remember that God does love them too.  It would also have a good garden so I could distill flower essences.  It would also have a couple of fiber bearing goats.  I don’t know.  I just want goats.  This thought has burned in my heart for years.  I still just don’t know how to go about it.

I am no different in substance.  I am only different in circumstance.  I am who I am.  I am a Christian.

For a few months before I found a permanent job I did a temp job in the marketing office of a retirement community.  The people who worked there were genuinely nice.  The facilities were wonderful.  They treated me as a member of the team even if it was only for a couple of months.  All in all a great experience.  Still, I was glad that it was only temporary.  The community offered comprehensive care (independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing).  The retiree was guaranteed this care and could not be turned away even if they ran out of money.  However, that meant that the marketing and sales department was constantly running the numbers.  How much money could they make or lose if a prospective resident is accepted.  Would they die before or after they ran out of money?  While I understand that it was that money that paid the salaries for all the staff, paid for the upkeep of (really nice) apartments and paid for all of the great amenities it still felt weird to talk about a person as if he or she was a basic threat assessment equation.

Why am I telling you this?  I recently lost my job.  That is not such an issue since I decided it was time to move anyway.  But when I lost my job I also lost my health insurance.  If you have lived more than 35 years then congratulations!  You probably have a pre-existing condition.  For Pete’s sake, some companies count sinusitis as a pre-existing condition.  I happen to have spondylolisthesis.  I was diagnosed when I was 15 and had two stabilizing surgeries.  Meaning, I’m not going to go to the Olympics anytime soon but I can walk, exercise and do pretty much whatever other people do.  Barring any accidents that would break all of my bones anyway I will be healthy for years to come.  But I still have spondylolisthesis.  It isn’t gone.  So, I put it down with the explanation on the application.  My rate doubled.  Screw me for being honest.

Unfortunately, this happened with my husband and it was fatal.  While he was working and insured through the church he had a heart attack.  He survived and he was actually doing pretty well at the time.  His heart was damaged and eventually he would need something more but the cardiologist was optimistic for at least 5-10 years with proper care he would be fine.  Then, the church voted to close.  We lost the insurance which would have cost us (outside of the group) about $1000/month.  The insurance that we might be able to afford either rejected him outright or inflated prices to a place we couldn’t afford.  Not only that but they wouldn’t even cover anything heart related anyway.  It was pre-existing and the most reasonable of the insurance agencies weren’t going to pay for any heart related issues for at least a year.

His cardiologist and family doctor did the best they could to load him up with the medication he would need.  But two years after not getting proper treatment he died.  My greatest regret is that my husband thought that I was worried that he didn’t make enough money.  What I worried about was making enough to insure him.  What I worried about was losing him.  I wish I would have been more clear about that.

In those two years my husband did work.  He wasn’t a lazy bum sitting around all day.  He had a side job that brought in money.  The pastors in the Phoenix area were also very generous and offered him everything they could to help his exposure.  People loved his intellect and outgoing nature.  He was so close to the point that he would have insurance again.  He didn’t sit around eating cheese fries either.  While he did gain weight after Christmas he was on track to losing it again.

Beyond his work and responsibilities to his own health my husband was generous.  He never made light of the problems the kids at church brought to him.  He never spoke down to anyone.  He was forgiving.  He hugged me every time I was scared no matter how he felt.  He was an excellent and often funny writer.  He paid the taxes on time.  He had a family, friends and people who loved him.  He wanted to care for all of them too.  He wasn’t perfect by any means but he wanted very much to be good.  All of his good qualities, any future benefit to others and the grief at his loss was not sufficient against the money that they would make off a monthly payment.  He would cost too much so it didn’t matter if he died.

I don’t know the answer to this.  I have no clue.  I’m not a financial analyst or a medical expert.  The only thing that I do know is that this isn’t right.

At times this is so unreal. It’s worse when it does feel real.  Every time I take a step to settle everything five more issues come up.  I am developing strange and pervasive fears of the outside world.  When I try to do something fun I start crying as if the sadness were a rubber band that had snapped back to place.  It’s hard to focus on anything.  All of this is very normal.  It sucks but it is normal.

I wish I was able to grieve by sitting in the dust and wailing because I feel (rightly so) that I have been torn apart. I am missing part of everything in my life. I want my husband. I miss my husband. Most of all, I want to continue to love my husband but I can’t. Love, that infernal verb, can not be done for those who are no longer here. It isn’t that I have forgotten my husband but that I simply can’t do anything for him. So, I am left with a mountain of affection and desire that will never be fulfilled. I am left with guilt and anger and sadness. I am left with grief.

I enjoyed being a pastor’s wife. I wouldn’t have married a pastor if I didn’t. I enjoyed supporting him. I enjoyed listening to him. I enjoyed helping the congregations in what ways were appropriate to my gifts. I’m not saying I always did a great job. I know I am a human being full of faults. there were many times when I was incredibly naive. However, over all, most of the days were good and in the days that weren’t good we had one another for comfort.

Since I lost my husband I am also no longer a pastor’s wife. I have lost both the good and bad of that life. There are adjustments that need to be made and some of them are tiny while others are monumental. Even the way I address a pastor is completely different.  Some people have told me to see this as freedom.  I have fulfilled my duties and I am now free to do as I please.  Great. Except that I liked what I had.  I chose that life for many reasons.  The main reason being that it is what I wanted.  The whole situation reminds me of a queen consort whose husband dies without children.  They were simply sent back home.

So, what now?  I have no idea.

There is a small acoustic party outside with a guitarist/singer who is providing the music.  I am of the opinion that if you want to be loud outside then you should live in the country.  Your neighbors probably don’t want to hear you and if you live in a city (or apartment complex) then there is a good chance that your neighbors can and will hear your music or noise.   So, either the party people don’t care or the guitarist wants the attention.  I will be operating on the latter assumption because that’s more fun.  Here is my review of the guy playing guitar really loud next door.

I had never heard the songs he was singing before.  At least I don’t believe that I have.  It is difficult to tell from inside my apartment and about 50 feet away.  I will work off the assumption that I do not know these songs and they are not simply songs that I have heard before which are being sung in some weird rendition. 

The singer (tenor) who I think is also the guitarist has quite a set of lungs on him.  His voice definitely carries.  Unfortunately, what it carries isn’t that great.  His voice is not accurate in terms of pitch.  In fact, the pitch is so wild that I expect the singer to be signed to the Mets very soon.  The whole of his artistry is concentrated on his own unique definition of “belting” the tune.  Belting is generally used to convey some melodramatic musical theater emotional circumstance (e.g., “I am dying.” “You are dying.” “They are dead.”).  Those who know anything about musical theater know that in order to belt and not be incredibly annoying the singer must have a high degree of skill and a song that is built for melodrama.  The singer does not have either of these.  The lack of skill shows in the cracking and a forced tone in the voice.  The songs are also not of the correct subject matter. The effect comes off as someone weeping over getting pepperoni on a pizza when they wanted sausage.  The singing does receive an occasional “woo” from the audience.  Normally, this would make me think the singer is at least charismatic but I can’t see the audience.  I can’t rule out the possibility that the audience is tone deaf or drunk or filled with drunken tone deaf people.

The guitar playing isn’t terrible.  The guitar is tuned properly and there are no obvious mistakes.  That being said it also isn’t terribly interesting.  The guitar is overpowered by the loud voice.  There is nothing wrong with the guitar.  There is nothing really good about it either.  It’s just sort of there.  I am vaguely impressed that he is able to get the sound to carry as far as the inside of my apartment about 50 feet away from where the guitar is playing.  On second thought, it would have been better not to have the strumming guitar chord with the singing.  At least then the problems the voice has holding a pitch wouldn’t be as noticeable.

On the whole this has been a lackluster and rather loud performance.  I would urge those who are interested in attending this summer concert series instead watch anything else on Youtube.  You can get the same quality without having to travel all the way down here.  Perhaps by next year this act will improve but I hope I’m not here to review it.

With my husband’s passing I had to post an announcement on his Facebook page that he had died.  People liked that.  At first I assumed people believed my husband was joking (although he would not in such bad taste).  As I announced the funeral arrangements people liked those also.  On my own Facebook page I told my friends (mostly people I have known for years in real life) that my husband died and some of my struggles.  My friends liked those posts.

I realize that Facebook has changed the meaning of the word “like”.  I know that there are many facebook people who put out polls that say things similar to “if you like this post you mean cats.  If you post a reply you mean the answer is pudding. If you ignore my post you are a jerk”.  I am aware that Facebook has made you believe this is the minimum interaction to say that you acknowledge the hurt and offer your support.   However, when someone posts something a death, asks for prayers for someone enduring something awful or when the poster claims they went through something horrific then liking that post isn’t appropriate. This isn’t what liking a post means.  We use the Facebook term “like” as a verb (generally with the post details being the object).  This means someone who likes a post that someone has died enjoys that post, feels favorably toward it or was wishing previously that that the post happens.

Please use the Facebook like button responsibly and ask yourself if you should say you truly like something.

I have been going through my husband’s documents.  He had begun writing a few interesting pieces.  Drama in theology and scripture had always been a topic that had fascinated him.  He had hoped to do more work in that area.   My husband was mildly dyslexic.  I have tried to correct the major errors that I found as this was an unfinished work.  However, I found it interesting and it reminds me of speaking with him and how he tied together his love of the great philosophers and his love of God.


Theological Tropes:
The Structure Of The Spiritual Life

An attempt at a systematic theology by Rev. Gerard T. Sparaco


The origin of this present inquiry began more than twenty-five years ago with my first encounter with Plato.  The reading list for the fall semester of Freshman year at St. John’s College is dominated by the author.  Following Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey in seminar, the first work we read was Meno, followed by Phaedo, Theatetis, The Statesman, and of course The Republic and the Symposium.

Reading these works for the first time were one of the most confusing and frustrating experiences in my life.  There were two issues specifically that intrigued me.

The first was the very form of Plato’s writings.  Instead of laying out his philosophy in tightly argued prose, he chose rather to write in dialogue, as if he were writing a play.  Each interloquer played his particular role, asking questions and answering the questions Socrates posed to them.  These were  real people from the fourth century BC Greece whose identities were well know at the time of writing, but who were largely lost on readers today.

And sometimes, it seemed to me, the topic of the discussion would meander and take various unexpected twists and turns.  (But in general, it was far from what I was expecting philosophy to be.  later in the semester, when we began to read Aristotle, I felt more at home. )

Insight into why Plato chose the dialogue form for his writings was a topic of discussion.  It is meant to replicate the so-called “Socratic Method.”  Through questions and answers leading to even more questions, the reader was firmly placed in the process of enlightenment, to be trained how to think philosophically.  And, a productive way to read the dialogues is not necessarily to “capture” the concepts (to use an image from Theatitis), but to place yourself in the roles of the people in the dialogue other than Socrates.

This ran against what I was doing.  I wanted to try to understand everything Socrates was trying to say and truly understand his philosophy.  But, once I began to imagine myself as Meno asking about whether or not virtue can be taught or Alcibiades speaking about love in the Symposium, it made much more sense.  I was brought back into fourth century Athens and Socrates became more real to me.  It was written in dialogue form, one that mimics drama.

In  the second year of St. John’s we moved away from the Ancient Greeks into more familiar territory.  Much of the fall semester was occupied with copious readings and seminars on the Old and New Testaments with prolonged discussions on the Gospels.

What struck me about the gospels was all of the questioning.  This is most obvious in the Gospel According to John which is a series of questions.  Yes, Jesus preached more than he questioned, but the questions Jesus asked lead to the revelation of his very identity as God.

But much of my early reading of the Gospels, even during my time in seminary many years later, focused upon the words in the gospel as doctrinal propositions.  I focused upon the languages and tried to find the meaning behind the words, and thus understand why doctrines were formulated from such words.

It wasn’t until much later when I saw the forest for the trees.  I never really questioned why the gospels were written as they were.  The Evangelists, in wanting to proclaim Jesus Christ, didn’t write prose documents detailing their beliefs and decisions and teachings.  Rather, they chose to write about their witness of Christ in the form of a dramatic narrative with dialogue at the heart of the story.

As such, instead of focusing primarily understanding the words of Christ as sedes doctrinae, it became more productive to read Scripture as if I were one of the interloquers.  Instead of imaging myself as Christ, I put myself in the role of Peter, John, James, Judas, etc, and see Christ as they saw him.  In short, by placing myself in the narrative in one of the minor roles, Scripture began to open much much more to me.

Much reading the dialogues of Plato by placing yourself in the role of the audience, so does reading the Gospel as one of the initial disciples of Christ reveal a much more clear understanding of who Jesus and what he has done for us.

This revelation should initially teach us that the spiritual life, the one where we follow the Lord, is basically dramatic in form with Christ as the substance.  In popular theology there existed mystery plays and others that would deal with the lives of the saints to edify popular piety, but Christian theology never really paid much attention to the dramatic narrative nature of revelation.

Early Lutheranism practiced an early form of narrative theology.   This can be seen chiefly in Martin Luther’s appreciation for music an hymnody and the seventeenth century theologian Johann Gerhard, who wrote his Examination on The Suffering And Death Of The Lord as a five act play.

It wasn’t until the twentieth century when narrative theology began to be formulated.  The earliest articulation of this hermeneutic arose out of the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation including Davis Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann.  They viewed the bible as literature and appreciated the literary form and style.

But their agenda of “demythologizing” scripture actually served in detracting in any real attempt at narrative criticisms.  Instead of inquiring into the literary merits and themes of Scripture, their work served only to speculate about the motives of the authors.

Narrative criticims as a viable hermeneutic was formulated by George Arthur Lindbeck

Advancing further, theologians began to look at the totality of the written works, and to notice similar patterns and themes in scripture.  Ultimately, an full-blown theological aesthetic was formulated by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

Ultimately, an full-blown theological aesthetic was formulated by the Catholic theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

(There is a break in the pages.)

What also struck me as strange was the constant discussion of “love” and “beauty.”  My prejudice as a seventeen year old wanting to read philosophy was that it dealt with big concepts such as “truth,” “God” and “being.”  It seemed to me at the time all this talk about “love” and “beauty” were a regression into junior high school discussions of crushes and the like.  But I learned that the heart of the Platonic dialogues is that “beauty” is a quality of being that reaches into you, changes you though love, and makes you a better person.

(There is a break in the pages.)

The importance of narrative criticism as a valid method for Scriptural hermeneutics.  Bathasar’s theo-drama.

His basis in Catholic theology lends a heavy emphasis upon a particular ontological foundation.  But the issue for Lutheranism is our basis upon a forensic theology.  Martin Luther’s Babylonian captivity of the church.


My husband passed away on February 21, 2013.  He had just started a position with Risen Savior Lutheran Church in Chandler.  He was very happy and very excited.  The congregation was wonderful and we both looked forward to being there for whatever time we would be there.  I gathered some of my husband’s sermons that I found online. 


I sat in on a very interesting discussion on contemporary and traditional services.  I will tell you right now I think both are valuable as long as they are rooted in God’s Word.  I also believe there is room for both just as I think there is room for boisterous praise and quiet contemplation.  However, there is a reason why liturgies came to be as they are and a good contemporary service needs to consider some issues that face that kind of service.  I have seen great services that address the issues and make for a fun time and others where I have felt so completely lost.

1. Know when you need to lead others and when it’s a solo.
An organist is there to facilitate the worship service with the music.  It is a leadership role that is solely there to support the congregation.  Even those who can not read any music can pick out the melody played.  First the hymns are written that way and secondly an organist is there to facilitate participation in worship.  Very rarely will an organist start a hymn and then change to a 20 minute solo because they feel moved to do so.  In a contemporary worship service there have been many times where the band feels moved to change the tempo, have the only singer sing a counter melody or do any number of fun things.  I’m not saying “fun things” sarcastically.  It is fun to do that and it usually sounds good.   So, cool except the congregation gets left behind and completely lost unless they have sung with the band (or the song) enough times to get where they are going.  As the point is to relate to outsiders and involve them in the worship it is sort of self defeating to the purpose.  Also, as there is usually little or no written material the leadership role of the band and worship leader are increased.

2. The song format.
A hymn is generally written as A A A A or verse 1, 2,3, 4 and so on.  There are exceptions but even they are repetitive and by the time you get halfway through you know the tune.  This can be a good or a bad thing depending on who you ask.  The issue that contemporary music faces is that it is generally written as A A B A A B A A CCC or verse 1, 2, chorus, verse 3, 4, chorus, verse 5, 6, and finally a repeated variation of either the verse or chorus at the end.  In other words it is written as a song.  A new person might be able to catch the verse or the chorus but rarely all of it.  Add to that the solo like singing of the band leader and it becomes even more difficult to get into it.  So, pick something that other people who don’t have the music can sing after hearing once and use the other music for others to listen.

3.  Do what YOU do well.
There are two types of contemporary services.  The first is a group of people who have specific talents and cultural leanings who get together and want to share it with a community that also shares that culture.  An example would be a polka worship service directed at other polka aficionados.  (Don’t laugh.  I have been to that service and it was very cool.)  The second type of contemporary service is one run by people in order to entice those people over there.  You know, those ones that they really don’t know that much about.  An example would be a bunch of speed metal bands who hate polka running a polka worship service.  If people have the genuine desire, talent and will to make a contemporary service it is a much more authentic and enthusiastic in the response by the people involved.  If on the other hand the congregation is only doing it out of some attempt to appeal to people that they don’t know then it is different.  The experience can seem very fake to outsiders.  Not only that but it can be uncomfortable for the congregation and everyone else involved.  Outsiders tend to respond to the Word of God and the climate of the congregation and far less to what type of liturgy is used because to outsiders all liturgy is a little confusing.

4. Connotation
Do you know that the Ode to Joy used by Beethoven in his 9th symphony (chorale tune used as a popular hymn) really is not Christian and talks about gods and magic?  Do you know that some organists will not play Wagner’s Bridal March?  Do you know why?  Probably not because that music is over a 150 years old.  (If you do know then you are awesome you musicologist, historian or Wikipedia reader!)  Now do you know what “My Humps” by The Black Eyed Peas is about?  This issue doesn’t bother me but I know it bothers others.  Even though it can be used as an advantage we can not ignore that there is cultural connotation to music.  This connotation is only erased slowly as generations die off.  I want to state clearly that any genre of music can be used to God’s purpose and any music can be used secularly and using music both ways is fine.  Still, if you use a certain genre just be patient with the explanations you will need to give to the people who associate that genre with a specific song that was heard over the radio that one time in the car and was really terrible.  You will need lots and lots of patience.

5. Contemporary Christian music
Alright.  Fine.  Let’s bypass the whole issue by using established contemporary Christian music like the stuff you hear on the Christian stations.  Cool.  First do an experiment for me.  Turn on the radio and with your eyes closed turn the dial until you hit the station that plays that kind of contemporary Christian music.  Most likely you found it pretty quickly.  Why?  That kind of contemporary Christian music in an effort to sort of be all things to all people is its own genre.  While there is overlap just like most modern music you can easily tell which is which solely by the music itself (not the words).  It uses modern instruments but it isn’t really rock or pop or folk or anything else.  Since contemporary Christian is its own thing that does get around the issue of connotation.  So, like before if this is what you love and your gift then by all means go for it.  There is a lot of modern Christian music that I do like.  However, to many Christians the point is to get a common point with secular culture so that the worship service is relatable.  So what is the problem with established popular contemporary Christian music then?  As its own genre it is not the secular music people know.  They don’t know the tunes and the genre sounds kind of like other stuff but not quite.  It can be just as alien to someone outside of the church as chant is to most churchgoers these days.

6. You can’t please anyone.
I’m not just talking about the dissent in the established congregation who are afraid of guitars.  The greatest reason I hear for contemporary worship is “to bring in the youth”.  Alright.  Which youth?  I don’t mean the good or bad kids.  Do you remember being in junior high and high school?  Did everyone listen to exactly the same kind of music.  Heck, even my brother and I who are close in age and lived in the same house listened to completely different music in high school.  (He liked country and I liked hard core gangster rap.)  Whether it is an age group or an ethnic group to say that one group automatically likes one kind of music and will draw them in is kind of insulting.  So if you lean toward folksy and soulful acoustic guitar you will exclude the punk kids.  If you use hip hop you exclude the kids who listen to country.  And if you try to include everything in your genre then no one likes it.

7. I don’t want to clap
This is my personal one in here.  I don’t want to clap.  I don’t want to raise my hands above my head.  That isn’t how I grew up showing reverence to God and it’s uncomfortable to me.  I recognize that many people were and that is cool.  The non-clappers such as myself always get called out by the band or worship leader.  “I see some people not clapping.”  “Come on, get into it!”  And so on in order to generate energy.  If you clap then you clap to worship the Lord.  If you don’t then you refrain to worship the Lord.  Both are fine.  It could also be a sign that the person doesn’t know what the heck is going on in which case calling attention to it just embarrasses someone more. 

8. Transcending the limits.
Traditional services can work as effective outreach.  Contemporary services can work as effective outreach.  Compline services can work as effective outreach.  What you do can be a miserable failure too if you try to reduce God’s Word to a certain cultural identity.  Ultimately God’s Word is not dependent on our cultural context of it.  It never needs to be reframed (translation is a different matter).  Our cultural identity can give us gifts to express the Truth but that is all because our identity as fallen, broken and sinful humans transcends any other identifying factor.  So does our standing as redeemed Christians.  We need to understand that at our core we are all in the same boat.  I’m not saying we can’t use what we know and what other people know.  That would be silly.  I’m saying it’s not you who is doing anything but it’s God who is working through His Word.  This is most important in de-politicizing this debate.  In fact the sides do talk about each other like Democrats and Republicans instead of brothers and sisters in Christ.  The traditional side thinks the contemporary people are all heretics.  The contemporary side thinks the traditionalists hate people (hypocritical heretics).  This isn’t true.  Both sides have very valid points and details that need to be considered.  We can’t listen to one another if we are tearing each other down.