Miscellaneous Thoughts on a Labor Day Weekend


Spent most of the week “riding the chair” as I like to say. Misunderstood a timetable point on a project I was working on, so I had to kick it into overdrive. Cerulean Sanctum went on the backburner. Apologies if I felt a bit distant and uninvolved this week.

Here’s what I’ve been thinking:

  • I hated Blue Like Jazz and didn’t even bother to finish it—something I never do, even with the worst books—but I thought Don Miller’s prayer at the Democratic National Convention was worthy in light of the venue. Yes, it did have a liberal feel to it and, yes,  he did absolve others from believing in Jesus by using himself as a proxy for their belief in his comments at the end, and, yes, he could have been more of a burning witness for Christ, but he did one thing that I admired: He touched on all the social aspects of the Gospel that never get one hint of mention during a typical prayer at a GOP/Evangelical-dominated event. We can say what we will about how we live out the Gospel, but Miller’s prayer highlights one very sad truth about American Christians: Each of us has a half-empty cup when it comes to understanding what it means to live out the full Gospel of Jesus Christ on a practical, daily basis.

  • As for Obama, for someone who keeps talking about change and pushing past old paradigms, he could not have chosen a bigger old paradigm ball-and-chain than Joe “Tony Blair Said It and So Will I” Biden. I mean, seriously. Talk about “old boy networks” and “this is my time” privilege! Joe Biden? Some DNC bigwigs took Obama into a back room and said, “If you have any party loyalty at all, you WILL be choosing the biggest character we owe now that Ted Kennedy’s out of the picture.” Seriously. That conversation happened. I’ll bet good money on it.

  • This just in: John McCain shows he’s got the mojo Obama lacks in picking veeps: It’s Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, and a darned good choice, too. She’s the closest thing to Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher that we’ve seen in American politics since Elizabeth Dole ( whom I thought was a more viable presidential candidate than her husband, Bob).

  • The more I think about it, the more I realize that one of the most important and influential figures of the 20th century was not a politician, but an explorer, filmmaker, inventor, scientist, firebrand, and intellect: Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He’s one of the most underestimated and overlooked figure of our day. To say he’s the greatest person to come out of 20th century France takes no effort. His global influence even after his death is extraordinary. Do the research and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Doesn’t it bother you that we have to go back more than fifty years to begin to find great Americans that commanded the world’s stage? I think nothing speaks louder about the shriveled figures we thrust into the global spotlight today than that sad truth.

  • In other news, The Wall Street Journal now claims that there are more ultra-rich than ever before in this country. On the other hand, in the same edition, it claims the middle class are getting killed. Hmm. Two Americas? Where have we heard that before?

  • Irony of the Day: I got my renewal for The Wall Street Journal two weeks ago. One year? $349. Ouch! Six years ago when I started reading it, I paid $149 for a year. Then $179. Then $199. Then $219. Then they offered me $299 for 18 months and I thought I was actually getting a deal. Now it looks like the newspaper of record in the Edelen household is going bye-bye. I guess this is why Rupert Murdoch, the new owner, is one of the world’s richest men. If we need any further commentary on the decline of newspaper readership in the United States, I can post the renewal notice online so we can all cringe.

  • By far, the most read post on Cerulean Sanctum is this one. It’s also the most Googled post. Every day of the year I get about a dozen search engine hits on that post and hundreds at the start of a new year. What does that say about churches that so many people are Googling to find the direction they need on this issue?

  • The runner-up in Googling and reading? This post. I’ll leave you to guess why.

  • Is there any weirder holiday than Labor Day? Honestly, I sometimes get Labor Day and Memorial Day mixed up.

Anyway, have a wonderful, relaxing weekend, no matter what holiday it is.

To My Brother, MIA


When I was a kid, they built this suburban church near I-275 that rivaled the Colosseum in Rome. You could fit four of my church inside it. Every time we drove past, my folks would comment on how big it was. In my mind, it was as close as you could get in the 1970s to a genuine megachurch. Imagine a sea of cars on Sunday nights. Heck, we’d even watch them park cars on the church lawn. (Hey, there were no Sunday night services at the Lutheran church, so yeah, we were out and about.)

Funny thing is, I’m 45 years old now and have lived in the Greater Cincinnati area for most of my life, yet I’ve never met a single person who attends that church. The Christian world is impossibly small, and I swear that while the world has its six degrees of separation, for Christians it’s more like three.

Still, I’ve never met anyone from that church. Doesn’t that raise questions about that church’s ability to evangelize? If they aren’t getting out and meeting people, including a fellow brother like me, how will they ever lead anyone to Christ? What is it about them that they have no presence?

Here’s the deeper question: Where there was once life...What’s wrong with me that I’ve never encountered one of them? What’s that say about my presence in the community, my willingness to share Christ with someone new, even if that someone new turns out to be another brother in Christ?

You see, it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

I drove past that church the other night, and it seemed small. And the more I stared at it, the longer I hunted for signs of life, the more it looked abandoned.


A Church That Reads the Signs of the Times


Karl Barth supposedly said that preachers should preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Given the sorry state of the prophetic voice in the American Church today, perhaps that’s the wisest approach we can take given the circumstances.

Just last week, I read an article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “A Tax Revolt Is Quietly Brewing In Some States.” An excerpt:

On Election Day, Massachusetts will vote on whether to eliminate its state income tax. Advocates hope victory in a place long thought of as a free-spending liberal bastion will pave the way for similar initiatives in other states over the next few years. Critics insist a yes vote would lead to fiscal disaster.

While Americans are focusing on the presidential and congressional races, voters in Massachusetts and other states will decide the fate of dozens of state and local tax and spending issues.

The article goes on to note that several states face this type of citizen-inspired tax repudiation come November and beyond, not just Massachusetts. People are tired of cronyism, waste (studies peg wasted tax monies in Massachusetts at 41 percent of the state budget), and the fact that too many people are on the dole as employees of governmental agencies at all levels. In my state, Ohio, I saw a figure recently that claimed that 37 percent of employed workers in the state worked directly for a local, city, county, state, or federal government agency.

That’s utterly ridiculous. No wonder people are fed up. (Note: I am not against government. Obviously, we need certain government functions like our representative assemblies,  military, and law enforcement. The issue here is one of scope and sprawl and the ability to justify the amount of money it takes to defend and fund that bloat. That’s what has so many people upset.)

But that’s not the point of this post. Can you tell what is? Church, can we read between the lines on this tax revolt issue?

If we can’t, we need to learn. We need to be smarter about these things. If our self-anointed prophets are unreliable, then we need to improve how we comprehend the signs of the times.

What happens when the government is forced to make cuts because of reduced revenues? Social services go bye-bye.

Here’s the $64,000 question: Who will pick up the slack when social services taste the business end of the axe blade?

Too many Christians glamorize the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s in this country. They look at those years as the golden age of Christianity in America, the age of Norman Rockwell paintings depicting families praying together, the age of Leave It to Beaver and good, solid, Christian values.

But that would be denial.

Because what happened during those glory days was a wholesale abandonment by the American Church of the social services it alone provided the least of these. Christians shirked their duties as they caved to Industrialism and consumerism, jettisoning their responsibility to care for the downtrodden, instead voting to let the government assume that role, a role government was never designed to handle. That, in turn, weakened our resolve as a nation and forced us to suck at a socialistic, governmental teat.

And now some people are sick of the results because it’s hurting them in the one thing they value more than anything else: their wallets.

This I ask: Anyone care to guess how many churches in Massachusetts, or any of those other tax revolt states, are prepared to handle social services when the government can no longer afford to maintain them?


What’s your church’s plan to care for the mentally disabled?

What’s your church’s plan to care for the senior citizens in your community?

What’s your church’s plan to deal with those families who don’t have enough food and must subsist on government handouts that are most likely going away?

What’s your church’s plan?

Our churches don’t have a plan, do they?

Consider this passage of Scripture:

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, everyone according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
—Acts 11:27-30

Did the early Church sit idle, only to react too late, or were they proactive? When I hear people saying that the revelatory gifts aren’t for today, 'The Good Samaritan' by François-Léon SicardI ask how they expect to ever be proactive in times of distress. Has the kind of crisis we see here in Acts 11 ever stopped happening? Shouldn’t the Church always be ready to deal with this kind of thing, supernatural revelation or not?

It’s bad enough that we either despise prophecy or we gather false prophets around us, but isn’t it even worse that we get fair warning from secular sources and can’t even react to that? Just how dull are we?

Regular readers are surely tired of me beating these kinds of dead horse issues, but why is it that we are NEVER prepared?

For all those going on and on about an end-times revival, I say this: Here’s your chance. Because no one is more open to the Gospel than the person in dire need of a social service who then finds a born-again Christian ready and willing to help. Nothing verifies the Gospel in the minds of jaded people than to see the Church actually bringing its doing in line with its speaking.

A great opportunity looms before us. Are we going to run with it now or will we once again wait until its too late?