Sunday, November 16, 2008

Faux Pas!

I was out of the country for an extended period of time, making me late paying the credit card bill. It was a large bill, the penalty being very hefty as you might imagine. I called the company, begging, pleading and even wallowing a bit, explaining that my contract-breaking lateness was genuinely unavoidable for all the right reasons. After a little lecture reminding me of the legal contract I had signed, the representative of a normally ruthless industry had compassion on me saying, “Since you have been a good, loyal customer for many years and because you don’t have a history of lateness, we will exercise some flexibility this time. However, in the event you are late again, the penalty will have to be paid.” I thanked her profusely vowing never to be late again.

Almost simultaneously, I was denied a hefty refund for critical dental work by my denominational health care plan because I had failed to read the fine print about the UCR (Usual Customary Rate) Policy, and obviously the dental fee was significantly over that rate. Incidentally, I had to schedule the work quickly as I was going to be out of the country for an extended period of time, i.e. above, and it couldn’t wait.

I wrote the official denominational representative, begging, pleading and even wallowing a bit, explaining that my policy-breaking “faux pas” was a result of genuine ignorance, and if some compassion and flexibility were shown I promised that it wouldn’t happen again. The fact that we had been loyal servants of the institution for 45 years remained unsaid. After making the customary bureaucratic rounds, my appeal was denied on the grounds that it was a hard-line policy with a line having to be drawn somewhere, me being the “somewhere.” Well, so much for “Compassion in Action!” And it did cause me to rethink the ruthless part.

I was also reminded that Jesus broke the denominational Sabbath hard-line policy (rules), not because of ignorance or lateness, but because He and his disciples were genuinely hungry, a pretty good reason don’t you think? What impressed me most was the flexibility He preached. After reminding the lawmakers of past exceptions to the rule, He said:

"There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—'I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual'—you wouldn't be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he's in charge" (Matthew 12:6).

For context, I direct you to the second to last paragraph in the post below. Irreverent or irregular? You make the call. And if so inclined, pass this link along to the “keepers of the law” within your own denominational structure.

PS The penalty, ultimately, for Jesus' faux pas was death; mine was a measly $465, hardly a comparison. But it still hurts!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sacred Cows!

It has recently been brought to my attention, on pretty good authority (although not first hand), that a territory in the western world has mandated that, in the future, 75% of all music used at youth councils must be “Salvation Army music,” excluding even contemporary Salvationist compositions; only traditional stuff from the red song book.

I hope I heard this wrong, or that there is something missing in the translation, but even the fact that this issue has raised its ugly head again is problematic from a lot of different perspectives. It is, in fact, another in a series of “déjà vu all over again.”

The question isn’t even, “What is Salvation Army music?” although it’s an interesting one. I haven’t taken time to go through the song book (nor am I going to) and tabulate the origin of each song, but I can assure you that many of them were borrowed, begged and…well maybe not stolen, who knows? William Booth is purported to have said, “Why should the devil have all the good music,” or something to that effect. I wonder, would Barry Gott’s brass arrangement of songs from the musical, “Godspell,” count in the 75% or should it be tallied as part of the 25%? Who’s counting anyway? I hope another line isn’t going to be added to the statistical report.

The question is much bigger and broader than this, “What is our mission?” If we answer that correctly then all of our “sacred cows,” be they music or whatever, will fall into place…or out of place, whatever? Or to put the question another way, “Have we now moved from being a mission to becoming an institution.” Institutions are, in part, defined by their “sacred cows.” I’ve covered this subject thoroughly with a series titled, “Rediscovering the Mission,” beginning with the February 1, 2008 post – “What was once mobile and fluid has now become static, ingrown, methodological and institutionalized.”

Further, this piggybacks on my recent post below. “Salvationism” is mission in action. Mission is “Genesis in motion.” It removes the “No!” from “in(no)vation,” and replaces it with “Yes!” Reread the Orbiting “obsessing” quote below and put it into context here. Replace the word, “statistics,” with music or one of the many other sacred cows now mooing in our vineyard.

What is TSA’s DNA anyway? What makes us uniquely who we are? Catherine Booth defined the answer to those questions forcefully and succinctly for us: “Adaptation, expediency, is our only law” (Feb 9 post). And who do you think her model was?

I’m having trouble determining whether these are irregular or irreverent thoughts, so to be safe you will find them at both locations.