Saturday, December 31, 2011


Things that went missing in 2011

Happy New Year's Eve! Lots of other news outlets are making lists of people who died in the past year, but here at the Razor I'd like to recognize stuff that just kind of disappeared for no reason.

1. Long Distance Phone Calls

Not so long ago, long distance phone calls were a big deal-- I remember shushing people who were trying to interrupt my phone conversation by mouthing the words "long distance!" Now... not such a big deal.

2. Fun new airlines

For most of the last 30-some years, it has been great to watch kooky new airlines (remember People Express?) crop us every year. That era seems to be over though-- the victim of tight credit.

3. Using the left lane for passing

When did it become ok to just cruise along in the left lane all the time? Not so long ago, it was just Bob Dole doing this, but now it seems very common-- and dangerous and annoying.

4. Boxing

Who is the heavyweight champion of the world right now? No one knows!

5. Atlantic City

Wasn't it supposed to be the next Las Vegas? Somehow, it kinda faded.

6. Football conferences

Remember back when Oklahoma/Nebraska was a huge rivalry game? When the Big 12 had 12 members, and the Big Ten had 10? When you could schedule things three years in advance? Forget all that- rivalries are as passé as scheduling Baylor for an easy homecoming win.

7. Television sit-coms

Gone, pretty much, though I'm not sure why.

8. Breakfast

It's pretty much a snack now. What happened to the days when (at least according to Super Sugar Bear) a "complete breakfast" was a big bowl of Super Sugar Crisp, juice, toast, another kind of toast, and milk?

9. The names Dot, Albert, Betty, and Dick

The most popular name for baby boys in 2011 was "Aiden." Huh.

That's all I have-- who can come up with a 10th?

Friday, December 30, 2011


Haiku Friday: New Year's Eve

by: oslerguy

Here it comes! New Year's Eve! Let's haiku about that, whether your plan is for something loud or something quiet. As a starter, use the first line "My New Year's Eve Plan."

Here is mine:

My New Year's Eve plan:
Gather a lot of foodstuffs
And then eat them all.

Now it is your turn! The winner gets their bio here on Monday...

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Christmas Mayhem Thursday!

I'll be honest: After this week, I really don't have the heart to host some weighty political debate this week. Instead, I think we should tell stories about our Christmases. This isn't my idea; rather, I am accepting the challenge New Christine made so gracefully in a comment a few weeks ago, when she said this:

This fall, while immersed in two large commercial projects, I received an unexpected call from a family of five requesting design help with their kitchen and dining room make-over. With no time and little desire, I struggled to reply and contemplated turning down my first referral – a project so small, the compensation barely worth the effort. My better Angels won out...

My acceptance was greeted with a “Thank you,” and a comment, “After viewing your web site, why would you even consider taking on a project like ours?”

A whisper hard while driving to meet them, suggested my efforts should be offered with a request to pay it forward. For the referral that came from his bother, their family agreed to take his brother’s to a special outing or performance, with the remainder of my design hours to be given back charitably to their parish or community.

Weeks later, during an Advent enjoyed and preparations mostly complete, I chose a first Christmas without a fir freshly cut. The savings gifted to a family member, down sized and seeking employment for more than six months - Something extra at Christmas, for her and her family. A “Charlie Brown” tree for me. Content was I, though my loved ones and friends were surprised - and a story was shared.

From my new clients a surprise did I soon receive. “Speaking of Christmas, we have 2 adults and three kids who LOVE to decorate for Christmas. If you would let us, we would love to bring a tree by your house and decorate it.”

A balsam fir proudly stands watch over my little sparse tree, a gift unexpected from loved ones for me…

What Gift can we Bring when we

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


It's a Festivus Miracle!

My family has a lot of Christmas traditions-- critiquing the church service on Christmas eve, festive holiday spoon-hanging, and the ritual smashing of the gingerbread house among them-- but every year there seems to be a surprise as well.

This year's surprise came in the trunk of my cousin John Robinson's car. It was some cardboard untidily taped together with fading masking tape.

He hauled it into my parents' house and told me the story of how they had ended up here. My grandmother, Genevieve Webster, died almost 20 years ago. Not long after, John went over to check her basement storage area, to make sure it was cleaned out, and found this cardboard container in a corner against the wall. Before throwing it out, he looked inside.

What he found was old newspapers. Not just any old newspapers, but those that recorded two significant events-- the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, and the Boston Massacre in 1770. They are incredibly fragile but whole, which is remarkable for something that is 240 years old.

What surprised me, upon reading them, was how informative a primary document can be. For example, the front page of the paper announcing Lincoln's death had a sidebar with the headline, "John Wilkes Booth, the Actor, Suspected of Murder." What I hadn't realized, until then, was that Booth was famous in his own right-- to the degree that the headline writer assumed that his readers would know this actor. It made the shock of it all more clear to me.

John's question to me, and my question to you, is this: What should we do with these?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Crikeys, That's Violent!

I like to check back in on my favorite news outlets back in Waco, and I have to say that I am kinda taken aback by how grim the news seems to be out of Texas these days-- which is saying something given that I am currently in the Detroit area. The amount of gun violence is incredible.

If you don't believe me, check out the listings below, which is the "headline" section from the KWTX website. I did not edit this, or delete or edit anything-- I just cut and pasted it out of

Christmas Day Gunman Dressed As Santa Kills 6 In Texas Suburb
The gunman who killed six people in a suburban Texas apartment before shooting himself was dressed as Santa Claus, police said Monday.

Two Stabbed In Early-Morning Disturbance
Two people stabbed in an early morning disturbance Monday were taken to a local hospital and police are looking for a third person involved in the incident.

Texas Police Open Fire, Kill Troubled War Veteran On Christmas Night
A 29-year-old man described as a troubled Iraq war veteran died on Christmas night when officers opened fire as he ran toward them with a gun in his hand after firing at police cars.

Party Boat Explodes, Burns On Central Texas Lake; Arson Suspected
Damage is estimated at $1 million after a party boat exploded and burned in a Central Texas lake.

Late-Night Christmas Fire Destroys Local Couple’s Home
A Central Texas man and his wife escaped with their dog and little else as their house went up in flames just before midnight on Christmas.

Texas Police Officer On Leave After Deadly Christmas Night Shooting
A Texas police officer who shot and killed a driver who became combative after a crash on Christmas night was on administrative leave Monday.

Christmas Day Drive-By In Texas Neighborhood Leaves 5 Injured
Police think a domestic dispute was behind a Christmas Day drive-by shooting that left five people injured including a 6-year-old boy.

Bones Found Partially Buried In Wooded Area Of San Antonio
Authorities were trying Monday to identify bones that a man and his son found on Christmas Day while walking in a wooded area of San Antonio.

Christmas Day Fires Leave 3 Texas Families Homeless

Fires left three Texas families homeless on Christmas Day.

Elderly Texas Man Dies In Hit-And-Run Accident
An elderly Texas man was killed in a hit-and-run accident near an interstate rest area in Alabama.

Texas Family Pulled From Snowbound SUV Spends Christmas In Colorado
A Texas family that was headed up ski trip ended up stranded after their SUV got stuck and then was buried under about four feet of snow.

Drug Violence Kept Texas Families Apart On Christmas
Drug violence in Mexico kept some Texans from visiting relatives this Christmas.

Texas Who Pulled Gun And Chased The Wrong Guy Says He’s Sorry
A Texas man who chased another man he believed had ripped him off in a drug deal for 10 miles apologized after he realized he was chasing the wrong guy.

Some Rebuild In Wildfire Ravaged Bastrop, But Not All
New homes are going up in parts of wildfire-ravaged Bastrop, but in other places, all that’s visible are the foundations of homes that burned.

Hackers Target Central Texas Global Security Firm
A Central Texas-based global security firm targeted by hackers says such attacks can be hard to defend against.

Texas Police Task Force Focuses On Mexican Mafia Gang
A Texas task force made up of local, state, and federal officers is focusing on the activities of the Mexican Mafia in Central Texas.

Crooks Take No Holiday; Elderly Man Bilked Out Of Thousands Of Dollars
Police were investigating Friday after an elderly man reported he'd been bilked out of thousands of dollars.

Texas Border Agents Seize 7 Tons Of Pot In 5 Days
Agents on the Texas border seized more than seven tons of pot in just five days this week.

Five Taken To Local Hospital After Shooting Involving Police Officer
An injured police officer, a man whom the officer shot and two other adults and an infant were taken to a local hospital late Friday morning after what started as a traffic stop in Temple ended in gunfire.

Shooting In Rural Central Texas Leaves 2 Men Dead
Two men died in a shooting at a rural Central Texas residence, authorities said Friday.

Early Shoe Sale Apparent Cause Of Local Mall Disturbance
Waco police assisted by McLennan County sheriff deputies were working early Friday to clear customers out of the Richland Mall after a large crowd gathered for early morning holiday sales, but quickly became unruly.

Teenage Girl Flown To Local Hospital After Early Morning Shooting
A woman was flown to a local hospital after a shooting early Friday in a rural area.

Central Texas Death Row Inmate Loses Appeal
A federal appeals court has refused an appeal from a Central Texas man sent to death row for burning his ex-girlfriend to death.

Hotels Across Texas Offer Free Rooms On Christmas Eve
Hotels across the state are providing free rooms on Christmas Eve to those with friends or relatives in hospitals and nursing homes.

Chase Ends When Fleeing Car Strikes Jeep, Injuring Driver
A driver whose Jeep was struck by a car whose driver was fleeing from a state trooper was taken to a local hospital Thursday.

Texas A&M Player Dies In Highway Crash
A Texas A&M football player died Thursday in a traffic crash.

Gas Leak Forces Evacuation Of Texas Police Department Headquarters
A gas leak early Friday forced the evacuation of a Texas police department headquarters building.

More Retailers Pull Formula From Shelves After Infant’s Death
More retailers are pulling powdered infant formula from shelves after the death of an infant.

Texas Woman Charged In Slaying Of Oklahoma Man
A 65-year-old Texas woman was held without bond Friday charged in the shooting death of an Oklahoma man to whom she lent money.

Thousands Of Rounds Of Ammo Cook Off As Rural Texas Home Burns
Bullets were flying and Texas firefighters had to keep their heads down as fire engulfed a house, cooking off tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition stored inside.

Four Dead Horses Found On Texas Property; 7 Others Rescued
Animal rescuers found four dead horses on a Texas property and took custody of seven others that were emaciated.
Texas Prison Guard Accused Of Sexual Abuse Of Inmate

A guard at a federal medical prison unit in Texas is accused of sexually abusing an inmate.
Former Soldier Surrenders After Standoff In Local Neighborhood

A 26-year-old former soldier surrendered to authorities Thursday after a two-hour standoff in a local neighborhood, during which some residents were evacuated.

Deputies Want To Know Who Sent Porn To Local Boy’s Cell Phone
Deputies are trying to determine who sent texts with pornographic pictures to the cell phone of an 11-year-old Central Texas boy.

Teenager Arrested After Texas College Coed Killed

A teenage woman accused of stabbing a 21-year-old female Texas college track athlete remains jailed after was charged with murder Thursday.

Texas Deputy Fired After Young Son Shoots Brother With Service Weapon
A Texas sheriff’s deputy was fired, arrested and charged after one of his young sons used his service revolver to shoot a younger brother.

Texas Boy Lost Kidney In School Shooting; Classmate Can’t Move Legs
One of the teenage boys who was shot during a basketball tryout outside a Texas middle school lost a kidney and a second still can’t move his legs, doctors say.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Our winner: Renee!

I hope that everyone had a great weekend, whether it was Christmas for you or not. For haiku Friday, I could not help picking (for the first time) a set of haikus that I thought hung together particularly well, by Renee:

What comes in the night
We do not expect,Tender King--
You come a child,poor.

They tell us to look
For the large,for powerful
But Love sleeps in straw.

Our own children come
To teach us who you are,Lord--
Rare...Abundant Joy.

Which means that it is time for her biography:

Though her present is well known, Renee's origins are mysterious. Some say that she was born on a plantation deep in the tidal bays of South Carolina, while others say she was born in the shadow of mountains among the towering pines of the northwest. Some claim that she was born into a family of traveling minstrels; others point to evidence that she was a child of land, helping with the harvest. There is some basis for believing that all this might be true.

Nonetheless, at this time we know her to inhabit the borderlands between the north woods and the high plains, a land that has given us legions of folk singers, street preachers, storytellers, and nearly any type of true believer. She is true to her habits, loyal to her own heart, and has successfully claimed her freedom enough times that it is no longer questioned. Those who have been to her lair say that everything there is there for a reason, though only Renee may know what that reason is.

Plus, she has a lot of hats. A LOT of hats.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Sunday reflection: It is what it is. But...

One of my least favorite expressions is "well, it is what it is." People say that when they reflect on a situation and don't acknowledge responsibility for it, or express a willingness to change it. Really, it's a variation on the theme of "That's just the way it is," which I have previously disparaged here.

People sometimes have that attitude about Christmas-- that it "is what it is." Usually, they mean that Christmas is some combination of stressful, meaningless, commercialized, and brutish.

It can be that, of course.

But, only if we choose that. It strikes me that this Christmas can be something beautiful and whole: A new palette and a blank canvas. It can be a space in which to create what we want, full of color and meaning, if we wish. It is the one Sunday this year that the Sabbath really will be observed, because everything will be closed-- we will be left to our own devices. There will be quiet, for us to fill up or let be. Either way, it can be ours.

When Christ came into the world, he brought that power and gave it to us. He broke down rules and rebuilt ethics on a foundation of empathy and love. He also came to bring agency-- the freedom to use reason to decide what that meant. Christ spoke in parables, and understanding a parable takes the work of at least two people: the teller and the hearer. As the hearer, we must fill the story with meaning, infuse it with love, make it dance with our own reality.

This day, if nothing else, is a day to remember that great gift, and begin the project.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Christmas Eve Reconcilliation

Today I have a piece in the Dallas Morning News that I co-authored with a new friend and collaborator, Randy Roberts Potts. It's wonderful that the DMN is running it on Christmas Eve; the title is There's Hope for Reconciliation Between Religious Right, Progressives.

Here is part of the article:

In working on the death penalty we have found that conservative Christians are very often principled, even when they disagree with us. When we talk about Christ as the subject of an unjust execution, or about the Eucharist as the last meal of a condemned man, they listen and consider it fairly. The discussion is worth it.

Even on the politically charged issue of gay men and women, we often find common ground. When we talk about reducing things like drug and alcohol abuse, suicide and homelessness in gay teenagers, we find that many pastors, youth ministers and lay people share our concerns. While many conservative Christians do not believe that the Bible permits same-sex marriage, they do agree that concepts of grace and charity as taught in the New Testament argue for a more loving, affirming approach to gay men and women.

Christmas is a season of reconciliation, and this could be one of the most significant reconciliations of all. Both social progressives and conservative Christians are fellow travelers who care about something more than money, who seek deep meaning, and who take joy in the uplifting of others.

Jesus broke bread with a man he knew would betray him, and another he knew would deny him; the least that any of us can do is seek the same with those who have opposed us.

I hope that people understand how gracious this statement is for Randy to make, and I admire him the way that I admire my other heroes of forgiveness, like Jeanne Bishop. If you don't know Randy's story, you can see some of it here:


Christmas Eve, and looking ahead

Today I will be surrounded by family, and making my traditional Christmas eve chowder. I'm also hoping to go on a traditional Christmas eve madcap adventure with my dad into the city-- more on that as things develop.

Looking ahead, Chato Hazelbaker at St. Thomas has put together a great web page which gathers the schedule and other materials for our trial of Christ this winter and spring-- you can check out that page here.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Haiku Friday: Christmas!

Hi! My name is Mark, and I love Christmas! It's simple, I know, but let's stick with the obvious and haiku about Christmas this week. Here is mine:

There's chill in the air
But no snow to be seen, yet
Warm hearts abound here.

Now it is your turn... the winner gets their bio here on Monday!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: Alan Bean and two good books

One of my favorite progressive activists is Alan Bean, who runs Friends of Justice down in Texas-- in fact, I like his group so much I have served on the board for a few years. Among other things, Alan is known as the person primarily responsible for breaking the story about horrendous police abuses in Tulia, Texas. His work there and elsewhere in the state lead directly to some important and far-reaching reforms. (If you want to know more about Tulia, I would recommend his book on the topic).

I would encourage you to read Alan's particularly interesting review of two books I want to read. The first is The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by the late Bill Stuntz, who is one of my real heroes in the field (and, I might add, a fellow grad of William and Mary). The second is Don't Shoot: The End of Inner-City Violence in America by David Kennedy.

What I like about Stuntz (an evangelical Christian who taught at Harvard Law School) and Kennedy (who teaches at john Jay College in New York) is that they are both realistic, challenging, and ultimately hopeful that things can get better.

If you didn't catch the first link to Bean's review, here it is again. Read it!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


What money buys

[click on the photo to enlarge it]

Earlier this week, in my piece in the Huffington Post, I mentioned that in wealthy areas "there is calm, above all, because that is part of what money can buy, and does." I think that's true, but incomplete.

When people talk about "what money can buy," they usually are describing physical objects they desire-- a car or a piece of clothing. In truth, though, what wealth buys in our society is calm and freedom.

The more expensive areas in any city usually tend to be islands of calm. The freeways go nearby, maybe, but not through those neighborhoods. There isn't much crime, and you don't hear sirens. People are not jammed together, so there is space between them to dissipate noise and anger.

The freedom is perhaps harder to see. The wealthy have the advantage to not constantly choose between two things they want or need; they often have the freedom to choose both. They are free to travel, because they can afford it, and they are free from the worry about money (though many still do worry about money anyways).

Money always purchases what is in scarce supply, so perhaps this tells us that calm and freedom are being rationed through disparities of wealth. Urbanization is a part of this-- when people lived on farms, there was calm even for the poor, and what they sought was stimulation. Now that we are urbanized, we spend our money for the opposite, for what comes for free when you live out in the country.

This is something I will think about when I sing "Silent Night" on Saturday-- that one of the promises of Christ is an occasional sense of calm and freedom, to the rich and poor alike.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Christmas on Tatooine

I would like to thank the current Wacoan of the Year for this...

Monday, December 19, 2011


Just up at the Huffington Post!

... is this advent piece I wrote a week ago Sunday (back when there was snow on the ground).


Our Winner: Ms. Jill Scoggins!

I'm still not sure what a noob is, but there was a lot of great haiku! I'm very fond of this, from Renee:

So,what is a noob?
An unfortunate knob where
One's nose ought to be.

At the very least, it seemed like a good guess. Our winner, though, is Jill Scoggins, with this entry:

So, what is a noob?
One who has much to learn but
won't try to one bit.

And now, her biography:

Jill Scoggins resides at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is employed in the care and handling of dangerous information. She arrived there only recently, carrying only a carpetbag and an umbrella. She has strange and magical powers, including the ability to produce objects from her bag that one might not expect. For example, on a camping trip to the Poconos with the members of the musical group Public Enemy, she is reputed to have removed from her bag a full-size stove, several car tires, a large clock, many hats, and a Chrysler LeBaron convertible.

From 1980-1985, Scoggins was in the personal employ of Ronald Reagan. She then worked for a Mr. Steven Jobs, and in 2007 became a top aide to a very young Justin Bieber.

Congratulations, Jill!

We are lucky to have Jill Scoggins among our ranks here at the Razor.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Retailers, please don't call it "Christmas."

Like some others, I have heard a fair amount of complaining about retailers who call this time of the year the "holidays" rather than "Christmas." For what it is worth, I disagree. I would love it if retailers disassociated entirely from the Christian holiday of Christmas. The best thing for Christians would be if those trying to sell us things would ignore Christmas altogether. That way, the holiday could be more about... well, you know.

How can Christmas be about what I see in the Macy's flyer? I learned a lot about this from an 8-year-old who once told me this: "I think God had Jesus be born in a stable so that we remember that great things can come from poor people." Yet, the message of the retailers is that great things-- i.e., the gift of an expensive watch-- come from riches.

So they can leave Christmas out of it, and that's fine with me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


IPLawGuy's second favorite band!

Or at least it was back in college... now with more gossip.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Haiku Friday: Noobs!

Yesterday, I included a graphic that used the phrase "Noobs Throwing Cans," but I have no idea what a Noob is. A new observer? A bad elf? Someone who was abandoned at a gas station in Iowa? Your guess is as good as mine... and guess we shall! Use the first line "So, what is a Noob?" Then have a second line of seven syllables, and a third with five.

I'll go first:

So, what is a noob?
I figure it must be a cross
'tween Newt and Goober.

Now it is your turn! The winner gets their bio here on Monday...

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: Which state should we expel?

Among the stranger suggestions for balancing the budget is the idea that the United States should simply sell Texas, because federal expenditures in that state outweigh tax revenues, and it would probably sell for a decent price.

I'm personally fond of Texas, so I'm against that plan. But, if we were going to sell off a state, which one should it be?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Something about this baby Jesus is.... strange

[Click on the image to enlarge it-- if you dare!]

I walked by a manger scene in Virginia a few weeks ago, and had to circle back to take a photo of the baby Jesus shown here. What is it about this particular baby Jesus that seems off?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


News from IPLawGuy's Pod in Space!

Christmas Pod
by: oslerguy

Monday, December 12, 2011


People who really like Pandas don't get all weird like this...


Haiku winner: Christine!

Boy, there were some good haikus last week! I came close to having Renee win, but she wasn't in church today, so I couldn't confirm some things about her poem. Our winner is Christine, who waxed eloquent on the subject of her elf name:

Santa's best helper
A little round and "tine"y
I am the elf ~ SPORK

Spork reference, bad pun, proper counting of syllables.... if she had mentioned a panda, it would have been perfect!

And now, her biography:

A child of the midwest, Christine briefly attended Miami University (Vermont), where she became fascinated with nuclear power after a work-study project involving Vermont's unique all-wood nuclear reactor. Wanting more, she transferred to Reed College, which is the home to America's only nuclear reactor run by undergraduates.

While working on the Reed College reactor, she was involved in a bizarre partial meltdown later blamed on the B-52's, a 1980's pop band. As a result of the accident, she somehow gained the unusual ability to fly, with a few limitations. First, she could only fly while seated in a chair, and at that can only levitate some eight feet above the surface of the earth. Her initial attempts to use her powers for evil were foiled, as people standing nearby were able to easily reach and grab the legs of the chair as it passed nearby, causing her to crash.

After several unfortunate incidents, including one at Legoland California, she decided instead to work in the field of back room operations for large banking concerns. This played to both her facility with numbers and her flying ability, as most people working within banking are not quick-witted enough to grab a flying chair which is barely over their head.

Having made $908 million in that field through a variety of means, she retired to Northern Alabama's Sand Mountain region, where she now lives with her husband and several snakes, which are used for liturgical purposes.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Advent

Not so long ago, I began to distinguish between Advent and Christmas, two very different parts of the liturgical season. Christmas is a celebration, while Advent is a time of expectant and reflective waiting.

Our society is pretty good at celebration, but not so great at reflective waiting. I suspect that part of this is because our commercial culture has assessed that there is money to be made out of celebration, but not reflective waiting. Our urge to spend and celebrate is affirmed at every turn, but not so much that sense of quiet that Advent should include.

I'm good at busy. I'm not so good at quiet. But, I'm trying.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Another view: Gays and lesbians and churches

Last Sunday, there were many reactions to my sermon in Virginia. Though I do not agree with him, I particularly admired Bryan Bufkin, a former student during my Baylor years (and a good one), for putting his name behind his beliefs, and thought he articulated his thoughts well. I also (with prodding from David Best, a UST student) regret the tone of my initial response to him. Bryan has graciously agreed to provide a longer explication of his thoughts, which are included below:

Hello all. My name is Bryan Bufkin. I am a recent graduate from Baylor Law and a new attorney in Fort Worth, Texas. Following a difference of opinion between Professor Osler and myself regarding how Christians should treat homosexuality within the walls of a church or Christian institution, Professor Osler has been very gracious to give me this forum to express my opinions on this subject. For this, I am truly grateful. In a nutshell, I believe that engaging in homosexuality is a sinful behavior. And, just like any other sin, I don’t believe that accepting and encouraging that behavior in a Christian institution is what the Bible tells Christians to do.

I ask anybody reading this to do so with an open mind and a graceful heart. I am not trying to convince anybody that homosexuality is a sinful behavior, as that would lead to many rabbit trails and would ultimately be counter-productive. The reason I originally posted was because I felt like a lot of Christians were being unfairly labeled as being judgmental, ignorant, and hateful. I don’t believe this is the case for many Christians. This is an extremely difficult issue, and I have spent a lot of time praying and thinking about it. The point of this post is to show that there are sound reasons for my beliefs and that this is at the very least a difficult issue that many Christians have spent considerable time analyzing. I think it’s important to have an honest conversation about these issues instead of hiding behind surface level arguments about love and acceptance.

I am writing this post based on a previous post from Professor Osler. I am limiting the scope of this post to the two issues that I believe were addressed in Professor Osler’s blog: (1) whether Christian institutions that believe that homosexuality is a sin should appoint leaders that are un-repenting, practicing homosexuals, and (2) whether those institutions should bless homosexual couples at the altar. Also, I am writing this post under the assumption that homosexuality is a sin. It makes it easier to do that instead of continually qualifying it with “assuming you agree it is a sin.” Please read this post in that context.

To provide context of the earlier blog post, Professor Osler’s argument is that as Christians, our number one goal should be to love others. Our role is not to judge others. That is God’s role. I completely agree with those two basic underlying concepts. However, we disagree on what that practically means. Professor Osler argued that it is not loving to exclude certain behaviors within a church. I hope that I have fairly characterized his positions.

I believe that engaging in homosexuality is a sin based on my understanding of the Bible. Whether or not you agree, it is hard to argue that there isn’t at least a solid foundation in the Bible for this belief. It is mentioned throughout the Bible, including in the New Testament (“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). If you do read the Bible to mean that a homosexual act is sinful, it should be treated like any other sin.

The ultimate question is this: is it unloving and/or judgmental for Christians not to bless homosexuals at the altar or not to allow un-repenting, practicing homosexuals to be leaders within a Christian institution? Professor Osler thinks that it is unloving and judgmental, and I do not. Our source of disagreement is our different definitions of what “love” and “judgmental” mean. It is very easy to label any accepting and encouraging behavior as being loving, but one must look past simply labeling love as “acceptance” or “encouragement” because love doesn’t always mean those things.

We both used the story of the stoning of the prostitute to illustrate our respective points. Professor Osler’s point regarding Jesus’ love is that “they were stoning a woman, and he loved her despite her sins . . . . Every time he was confronted with a rule, he responded by talking about the principle of love.” My point is that at the end of that story, Jesus told the woman to “go and sin no more.” To me, that’s the full picture of what love is. Love doesn’t mean simply accepting behavior that will lead one away from God. It was loving of Jesus to tell her to stop sinning because Jesus knew that her acts of prostitution were separating her from God. I am not saying that we are like Jesus and we should tell anybody we want to go and sin no more. I am simply saying that when we say that Jesus was all about love, it is easy to mischaracterize what that means. Yes, Jesus was all about love, but love doesn’t mean blind acceptance and encouragement. I am not sure where this definition of love has come from. Because sinning separates man from God, encouraging a person to continue to sin is not loving at all. An example I would use is a child that is attempting to put his hand near a fire. Would it be loving for the parent to encourage or allow the child to put his hand on the fire because that is what love is? No. It would be more loving to keep the child from hurting himself. If we are going to point to the story of the stoning of the prostitute to illustrate what love is, we must read the whole story. Jesus did not show the prostitute love by telling her, “I love everything about you, even the fact that you are a prostitute. Keep on being a prostitute if that makes you happy.” The story does paint a picture of love, but it is a more complex picture than many have made it out to be.

Professor Osler argued that “[i]n a world where two men or two women can blessed before this altar of God, things will be unfamiliar. That is the nature of the journey. That is the cost of justice and hope and love.” I disagree completely that this is the cost of love. Ultimately, Professor Osler is arguing that it is loving not only to accept homosexual behavior, but to celebrate it by allowing homosexual couples to be blessed at the altar. He is asking Christians to treat the sin of homosexuality differently than any other sin. Take the story of the prostitute, for instance. Can you imagine how preposterous that it would be for Christians to be mulling over whether or not to allow prostitutes to be authority figures within the church? Then, not only accepting them as authority figures within the church, but holding ceremonies to celebrate their acts of prostitution? You can plug any other sin into that scenario, and it seems preposterous. Imagine an un-repenting, adulterous preacher holding a ceremony to celebrate that a thief has decided to continue to steal things. Not only would that never happen, but nobody that I know of has ever argued that it should happen. I understand that you can throw the word “love” out there and say just about anything, just as easily as people can throw out that Christians are ignorant and hateful. We must start examining what these statements really mean. The Bible doesn’t allow us as Christians to decide for ourselves how we should treat certain acts so long as we define the treatment as “loving.” I think it’s dangerous.

Many argue that if a church believed that homosexuality was a sin and decided not to hire leaders that were un-repentant, active homosexuals, it would be judging the person for their behavior. Professor Osler said: “don't think you can decide it is your role to help other to identify their sins and pretend that isn't judging. Of course it is. That's what calling another person a ‘sinner’ is.” I think this is an extremely tricky issue. The Bible does tell us not to judge, but what does that mean? Just because Christians use their judgment, that doesn’t mean they are judging as the Bible tells us not to do. We must be able to discern what sinful behavior is. In the context of a church, we need to be able to communicate to fellow believers when we feel like their acts constitute a sin. That does not mean that we are judging. I say this because if Christians weren’t able to do this, it would be impossible to follow other commands in the Bible. The Bible requires discernment of sins throughout the New Testament (“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” Galations 6:1; “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.” Matthew 18:15 (spoken by Jesus)). One of the roles of the church is to try to help others within the church live as Godly and sinless of a life as possible, and it would be impossible to do this if we accept the definition of judging that so many have given it. Judging the other person would be condemning them or deciding in your mind that they are a bad person, which is not proper. I think that the concept of judging is one of the most misused parts of the Bible.

As Christians, we are always discerning what behaviors God has deemed to be unacceptable, and we have always attempted to keep Christian institutions sacred by trying to keep those behaviors from being encouraged or celebrated. It is not considered to be judgmental in the context of other sins. Why should homosexuality be any different? We don’t consider it unloving, judgmental, etc. when Christians make discernments of other, less controversial sins. For example, it is sinful to worship other gods. If a group of people wanted to worship a pagan god in a Christian church, Christians would have no problem deciding that this type of worship is not Biblical. It isn’t judgmental for the Church to keep the worship of pagan gods outside of the church. The Church isn’t condemning the pagan worshippers or deciding what their punishment should be. The Church is merely making a discernment that this type of behavior is not Biblical, and thus, it shouldn’t be encouraged or accepted within a Church. I see no difference with homosexuality. We cannot define “judging” as discerning whether an act is sinful only for homosexuality and then allow this exact same discernment for other sins without considering it to be “judging.” It is dangerous to have a different standard of what judging is for different sins. It gives man too much power to manipulate the Bible to his liking.

Many critics may be thinking that I am treating homosexuality harsher than any other sin considering that we are all sinners, including the leaders of our Christian institutions. The argument you may be making is that if we’re all sinners, why should homosexuals be kept from being a leader while other sinners are not? The difference between the two is not the sin. As I’ve argued throughout, homosexuality should be treated like all other sins. The difference between the two is repentance. If somebody is struggling with homosexual urges and slips up and sins but then repents and tries to stop engaging in those acts, that person is exactly like any other sinner. However, the problem that I see is when homosexuals have determined that this isn’t sinful behavior, they aren’t going to attempt to stop doing it, and they aren’t going to ask for forgiveness for it. If the Baptist Church believes that homosexuality is a sin, it would not make sense for the Church to have leaders who were engaging in that act without repenting. The Church would then have leaders that have a fundamental difference of opinion on a huge issue. Practically, this could lead to major problems. Imagine a deacon in a Baptist church teaching that homosexuality is okay. This would be in direct contradiction to the message that the church believes in. Additionally, in 1st Timothy Chapter 3, the Bible lays out that leaders of the Church should be very respectable men of God. Appointing leaders that are un-repenting would not fall in line with that passage. This is another area where trying to apply the argument to other sins shows how preposterous it is. Imagine a person trying to be a leader in a Christian institution who believes that adultery is not a sin, who continues to commit adultery, and who won’t repent for that behavior. It would be wholly uncontroversial for Christian institutions to find that this isn’t the type of person that should be a leader in the institution. I see no difference for homosexuality.

I have heard from many people that Jesus was about inclusion. I agree with that. However, sin separates us from God, who is perfect. Including others doesn’t mean encouraging acts that will keep them further from God. That would actually have the effect of alienating them from God, not including them in His glory. The key is not to keep everybody from sinning . . . that is impossible. The key is to try to keep everybody within the Church as close to God as possible, which means to try to keep fellow believers from sinning, but also to keep them repenting. This is what will bring a sinner closer to God. This is what will lead to the ultimate inclusion.

In conclusion, Jesus Christ was all about love. I am so blessed to have been washed by the blood of Jesus. I am so glad to know what true love is. I believe that because sinning keeps us from God, it would not be loving to encourage sinful behavior. I believe that having a functional and Biblical church means not having leaders that will not repent of their sins. I hope that I’ve at least illustrated why others believe the way that I do. I hope that people can see that in this difficult subject, Christians like myself make our decisions based on the love of Jesus and not based on hate as we’ve so often been accused.

Friday, December 09, 2011


Rick Perry!


Haiku Friday: What is your elf name?

I'm a little obsessed with elves at the moment.

Industrious, focused, jolly, and they work for the ultimate job creator. What's not to love?

As part of my obsession, I have been pondering my elf name. I have rejected Sparkles, Prong, Snickers, and Bluto. The winner, on the other hand will be reflected in my haiku below:

What is my elf name?
Based on my main hobby,
I choose "Doggerel."

Now it is your turn! Just make it 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 again. Note that the first line of "What is my elf name?" works pretty well...

The winner, as usual, gets his or her biography right here on Monday!

Thursday, December 08, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday II: Job Creators/Job Destroyers

The Republican push these days to describe wealthy people and corporations as "job creators" is really starting to bug me.

Of course some wealthy people create jobs. I understand that. Some corporations do, too. I'm all for that.

But labelling all rich people and corporations as job creators makes less sense than calling the federal government the "Amazing Job Generator." (After all, the federal government is good at creating jobs... something I join with conservatives in criticizing).

The bare fact is that many wealthy people and corporations are actually job destroyers-- they have consciously chosen to cut back payrolls and shift jobs from the United States to places overseas.

I have no problem with calling some people and companies "job creators." In fact, if a company chooses to keep or shift production and jobs to the United States, I say we honor them publicly and make that an official title. But, at the same time, we should identify other rich people (via their investments) and corporations-- those who have cut their payroll in the United States-- as "job destroyers."

Why won't Republicans go for that? You tell me...


Political Mayhem Thursday: The War on Christmas!

[click on the cartoon to enlarge it/thanks to a certain Wacoan of the Year for the tip]

A topic of debate in several places at the moment is the "war on Christmas"-- that is, the trend in some places to avoid references to the upcoming Christian holiday. To get a general overview of this critique, check out the War On Christmas website and John Gibson's War on Christmas treatise. Here is Bill O'Reilly's take:

Is there a problem?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


Who is this? And why haven't I heard of them?



I just got home from the excellent Wilco concert at the State Theater here in Minneapolis. The opening act was Nick Lowe, who joined Wilco for "Cruel to be Kind" as a second encore. I have previously featured that song here on the Razor, and love this video, which was partly filmed at Lowe's own wedding to Carlene Carter, a daughter of June Carter's and a stepdaughter of Johnny Cash. Dave Edmunds appears as the limo driver:

The band (Rockpile) was there for the wedding, so they didn't have drums and had to borrow a kit from local LA band, The Textones. The photographer is played by Rockpile drummer Terry Williams, who later played with Dire Straits during their run of hits.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


It's the Razor Holiday Shopping Guide!

Every year about this time, the Razor features some great ideas for Holiday gift giving! Here are several ideas for the discriminating shopper!

1) Tires

Who doesn't love automobile tires? Everyone needs them, but no one seems to have time to pick out a nice set for themselves. That's the recipe for the perfect gift. May I suggest Uniroyal Tiger Paws? They are uniform in color and pleasant to the eye. Moreover, the Tiger Paw is no longer made with actual tiger parts, a move which has made these tires both cheaper and less furry.

2) Sporks

People often ask me, "Professor Osler, how many sporks should I buy?" My answer, of course, is "how many can you afford?" The spork is the utensil of the future, so treat a loved one to a big drawerful of sporks. As budgets are strained, the silliness of buying both spoons AND forks will finally be revealed.

3) Gelatine

Did you know that gelatin is part of the "meat" food group? It's true, because it is made out of bone marrow. Now, it's not necessarily human bone marrow, but still...

4) Snow

It's fast, easy, and fun! Just wrap up some snow, put the package under the tree, and wait for the fun to begin!

Next: The secret to a great Christmas card!

Monday, December 05, 2011


Our winner: Justin T!

What a great week for haiku! Justin T. is our winner, though, for bringing the OWS movement back to Advent, where it belongs:

Good King Wenceslas?
Feasts while kingdom nearly starves!

And now, as promised, is his biography:

Justin Randall Timbertoes (born January 31, 1981) is an American pop musician and actor. He achieved early fame when he appeared as a contestant on Star Search, and went on to star in the Disney Channel television series The New Mickey Mouse Moon Man Club, where he met future bandmate JC Chasez as well as his future employer, Grumpy the Dwarf. Timbertoes became famous in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the boy band 'N Sync, whose launch was financed by Grumpy.

In 2002, he released his debut solo album, Justified, which sold more than 700 copies worldwide. The album was a commercial success, spawning the hits "Cry Me a River" and "Rock Your Body". Timbertoes continued his success with his second solo album, FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006), debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart, and produced the US number-one hit singles "SexyBack", "My Love", and "What Goes Around... Comes Around".

Timbertoes has won six Grumpy Awards and four Emmy Awards. His first two albums made him one of the most commercially successful singers in the world, each selling in excess of 7 copies. He also has an acting career, having starred in films such as The Social Network, Bad Teacher and Friends with Benefits. His other ventures include record label Tennman Records, fashion label Grump Haus, and the restaurants Dwarf Den and Arby's. Romantically, he has been linked with Dolley Madison, Rianna, Snow White, and Pixie Stick, the demon elf.

He now resides in Alaska, where he works as a public defender. He shares a one-bedroom apartment with Grumpy.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Sunday Reflection: Today's sermon

Today I am preaching at the Church of the Holy Comforter in Richmond, Virginia. This is more or less what I will say (and you will probably notice the strong influence of my mentor, Wacoan of the Year 2011 Bob Darden):

I received a note from Geoff [the Rector] about giving this sermon, telling me that the sermon should be about justice, and hope, and same-gender Holy Blessings, and also about John the Baptist. Which is, let’s face it, a lot to wrap up in 15 minutes, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Two decades ago, I was in law school. In the summer, I worked in Chicago, and lived in a small room in Streeterville. On Sundays, I would often walk up a few blocks to Michigan Avenue, and into a beautiful cathedral. That church, Fourth Presbyterian, was a rich and fascinating place, overwhelming. I didn’t know anyone there, or really anyone at all in Chicago. I was alone on a hot summer.

One Sunday I found myself sitting beside a woman and a girl, a mother and daughter. As the sermon began, I saw the girl writing on an envelope, the way children will do. It was… different, though. She was counting something, making hash marks in groups of five. I looked for a pattern, and couldn’t see it for a while, until it clicked—she was making a mark every time the minister, John Buchanan, used the word “love.”

That’s it, isn’t it? Justice and hope and new social institutions and the riot of John the Baptist do not usually all live in the same place. We have to pick them up and take them with us to somewhere unfamiliar. There is a… journey. And it must be a journey defined by love.

That was the thing that was most revolutionary about Jesus. His answer to everything was “love.” They were stoning a woman, and he loved her despite her sins; they brought him children and lepers and those who were despised, and he showed them love; they asked him which of 600 rules was most important, and he announced two great commandments of love… to love your God and to love your neighbor. Every time he was confronted with a rule, he responded by talking about the principle of love. Not easy love, either, but a love that required sacrifice and heartache and change.

There is this, too… that when Jesus was to leave this earth, he told people there would be one to come after him—the Holy Spirit, the Holy Comforter. I’ve always found that remarkable, that there is this sharp breaking point there, with prophets before that time who had come to shake things up, and the Holy Spirit afterwards, to challenge and comfort, a spirit of love in full.

That love, God’s love and our love for God, does not always provide us with easy answers, or even any answers at all. It's often troubling and unformed. When I read the story of John the Baptist, what amazes me isn’t the bug-eating and the beheading, but the fact that his message was so vague. He told people to repent and be baptized in the name of… well, he didn’t know who yet, someone who was yet to come. And somehow, people bought into this! He told them to share their possessions, and they came. He told them to sacrifice for love, and they came. With no Messiah but a promise, with no riches, with no theology, really, they came. Love is that strong.

The Gospels are full of journeys. The people journeyed to see John the Baptist. Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem, great with child. At Passover, the pilgrims would journey to the Temple at Jerusalem, as Jesus did.

This church sent me on a journey.

As many of you know, I worked for ten years at Baylor University, which bars gays and lesbians from working there as faculty or staff, or as students. I confess that I did not think much of this while I was there; it didn’t seem that any of my students were gay.

I was wrong. After I wrote an article about my own repentance from bigotry, I heard from many of my former students who told me about the problems they had, being forced to hide their true selves when they were studying with me. They were some of my favorites, too (you know there are favorites), the ones who were bold and sharp and questioning. I was stunned, and ashamed. What we at Baylor had told them, quite clearly, was that there was no love for them, on earth or in heaven, and I knew that to be wrong.

So I went back to Baylor. I wrote an article urging the school to change its policies, and set up an interview with the NPR station there to talk about it. The local paper, the Waco Tribune Herald, agreed to run my article on August 28, and I booked my trip for that week. I also asked my old church in Waco, Seventh and James Baptist, if I could speak there about the issue.

It all fell apart. I woke up on the 28th of August and looked online at the paper—the article wasn’t there. A Baylor Regent had stepped in (as was his right-- he owned the paper). I found that my interview at the NPR station (located in a Baylor building) was also off. Perhaps hardest of all, I got an email from the minister of my church, saying that not only would I not be welcome to speak that week, but that it would be an inappropriate topic any week.

I was at a loss, and heartbroken. This church was my spiritual home, and turned me away when I needed it most.

There was a moment of hope, though. I pulled up a message from a member of this church, reminding me of the importance of what I wanted to do. So, I regrouped. I submitted the story to the Huffington Post, and it was read there by over 100,000 people. I went to Waco, and ran into an old friend who asked me to speak on campus. I did, and found an informal group of Baylor students who wanted to examine issues of sexual identity. They had been denied student group status, and they would be meeting the next night in the dining hall. They asked me to come speak.

I did, of course. A local TV station came to cover it, and something remarkable happened. I spoke, and then some of the students, and then the President of the group concluded, giddy with excitement. During this time, other students had come into the hall from a pep rally across the street—the cheerleaders and the freshmen and the sorority girls. They sat quietly and listened. When the president finished, they all started to cheer: first the members of that group, but then the rest of them, too, the cheerleaders and the freshman and the sorority girls. It was a moment of grace and love and redemption and, yes, justice. They are still meeting every few weeks, too, and their numbers grow.

Of course, I heard from those who disagreed with me. They would also oppose same-gender blessings in church, I suspect. They stood on rules, for the most part… rules from Leviticus, rules from what they called “common sense.”

But I know what Jesus said about rules and the principle of love, every chance that he had. There may be judgment, certainly, but that is God’s work. Ours is to love one another, and to love God. Jesus came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it, and he did fulfill it through his life and death and life again, allowing us to move forward under the principles he taught.

In a world where two men or two women can blessed before this altar of God, things will be unfamiliar. That is the nature of the journey. That is the cost of justice and hope and love.

I am here to walk with you.

When I was a child, my mother would sing a song whenever we were going on a trip. We called it the “Packing Up Song,” and it went like this:

Packing up.
Getting ready to go
Packing up
Getting ready to go
Packing up
Getting ready to go
I’m all packed up getting ready to go.

I found out years later that it was an Appalachian version of an African-american spiritual, about the journey to freedom. But isn’t that every journey we make with the Holy Spirit, a journey to freedom, to the unfamiliar?

Let me walk with you.
I'm packed.

Saturday, December 03, 2011



Friday, December 02, 2011


Haiku Friday: Christmas Songs

It's time... we can now listen to Christmas music guilt-free. I love Christmas music, as many of you know, and delight in finding new things every year.

Let's haiku about that... here is mine:

Minnesota snow
Or Waco's wet December,
Sweet voices carol.

Now it is your turn! Just make it 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, and 5 in the third... if you win, your bio will appear here on Monday!

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Political Mayhem Thursday: Newt!

The leader of the pack in the coming-up-fast Republican primaries (January 3!) is Newt Gingrich, who appeared dead in the water not so long ago. Of course, that was back in the days when Michelle Bachmann was making news for something more than unfortunate photographs (which I am NOT going to link to).

Nearly everyone seems to say the same thing about Newt Gingrich-- that he is smart, that he has some good ideas, and that there is no way he is going to win. It's pretty much what they were saying two weeks ago about the then-ascendant Herman Cain (except maybe the "good ideas" part). There is kind of a bleak acceptance that Mitt Romney will be the nominee, but no one really is very excited about it.

In the meantime, here are some fun facts about Newt:

1) Before entering politics in 1978 (when he was elected to Congress), he was a history professor at West Georgia college. He was denied tenure (ouch!) at about the time he transitioned to politics. Until I looked this up, I was under the impression that he was actually a prominent historian who entered politics after a distinguished academic career. (Of course, I also recently confused Fredrick Douglas with Stephen Douglas, so I am not in much of a position to criticize him).

2) In 1988 I read Gingrich's book Window of Opportunity, and liked it so much that I tried to lend it to friends (including IPLawGuy).

3) Gingrich's first wife was his high school geometry teacher, whom he married when he was 19-- right after high school.

4) Gingrich was Time's Man of the Year in 1995-- and deserved it, given his important influence on American politics at that time.

So... is there a chance he will be President?

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