Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gary Sweeten - Happy 70th

My old friend Gary has hit a milestone. He is looking good, still married to his first wife, he has raised some wonderful kids and has an ample supply of grandchildren. Say what you will about Christianity, but Gary took the road less traveled and that has made the difference.

My first recollection of him was in 1970 at Cincinnati's Spiritual Revolution Day. This event took place at the "new" Fountain Square that was right across the street from the RKO Albee theater. Arthur Blessitt was giving an electrifying speech about accepting Jesus into your life. Yes, this was the days of the Jesus Movement.

After some initial words and music the entire group marched up Vine Street and took a left turn at 7th Street to Covenant First Presbyterian on Elm street. At the Church this tall, slender young fellow with a bushy Amish style beard spoke about his relationship with the Lord. It was Gary.

As the days passed by, I became a member of the group that sponsored the Spiritual Revolution Day. We held a weekly Bible study and Gary stopped by their house frequently to lead the discussion and join us in prayer.

Gary was a counselor at the University of Cincinnati. But he was also a key figure in the leadership of Cincinnati's Jesus Movement. As our group grew we became more committed to following the Bible. Our goal was to live our lives like the First Church, so we sought out Gary and several other men to be our "Elders". Our hope was their wisdom would be passed down and they also could help us with direction in our lives.

Through this relationship, I learned that Gary was married to a wonderful woman named Karen. They had two children. Julie was about three years old and Timmy was a toddler. Gary and Karen were gracious enough to open their home to us on ennumerable occasions. We became very good friends. In fact Gary helped to counsel Linny and me during our engagement to be married.

Around this time period Gary was working on his doctorate. His ties in the community and education lead to a relationship with College Hill Presbyterian Church. I do not know if Gary had considered the possibility of the ministry, but God had opened the door and Gary walked right in and set right down. Their gain was our loss. He left our group and we missed him, he made the right decision. In doing so he cleaned up his act. The beard was gone and the blue jean jacket was replaced with a suit and tie and even some spiffy ministerial robes.

Linny and I eventually left the Cincinnati area for about ten years. Upon our return we attended College Hill Presby and it was like going to a high school reunion. We met so many familiar faces that was had missed. And among those was Gary and Karen.

We stayed at College Hill until some big changes started to happen. Many of the ministers seem to make a simultaneous decision to leave. Gary had decided it was time to get back to what he enjoyed and that was counseling.

After that I did not have much contact with the Sweetens until the internet came along. I started looking up old friends and ran across Gary. We emailed back and forth. Eventually I came across Braveheart and the Seasoned Believers Blog. I read these on a weekly basis and from time to time respond to his posts.

Gary and family had a big time last night, surrounded by family and friends. God has blessed him and it is good.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Burning Crosses

A Knox County school teacher from a town near Colombus Ohio made the news this week fwhen he was dismissed for proselytizing and burning crosses into students skin.

Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater, who has been teaching for 20 years, denies wrongdoing.

The incidents came to light when a family filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Columbus against Freshwater and the school district for burning the impression of a cross on their child's skin.

Freshwater used a science tool known as a high-frequency generator to burn images of a cross on students' arms in December, the report said.

Freshwater told investigators he simply was trying to demonstrate the device on several students and described the images as an "X," not a cross. In the past Mr. Freshwater had been reprimanded for refusing to remove his Bible and Christian posters from his classroom desk and teaching creationism alongside evolution.

The ACLU has also jumped into the fray head first and sided with the school on the matter.

As Christians we need to accept that we are in the World and must deal with it. We certainly want all to share our faith and be a part of the Family of Christ. However we need to let go and take our lead from God. Would not it be better for this man to act in a Godly manner and be respected than to tattoo crosses on children and become fodder for the days news of what those zany Christians are up to now?

The AP photo to the right does not appear to be an X. So I tend to disagree with Mr. Freshwater's explanation.

As Christians we face a dilemma known as The Great Commision. "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Most Fundamental and Catholic Christians would interpret this as a directive to all men. There are some that believe this was a directive to the eleven remaining disciples. Historically the Word of God has spread to all ends of the earth. And sometimes zealousy for proselytizing has caused war and martyrdom.

As a newly saved 18 year old, I would of had no qualms about walking up to a stranger and asking if he would like to talk about Jesus. As someone in the middle of my life, I would be much more cautious.

I would hope that Mr. Freshwater would be honest in his diliberations with the school, his students and the parents of his students. And also honest with himself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm In Trouble, but I'll Cope

I added a post yesterday about TV religion and poked fun at a few TV clergy. I was very ecumenical in the process since I iwas inclusive of Protestant Christians, a Catholic Bishop and a Muslim Cleric. And if that doesn't sound like the set up line of a joke, I don't know what does.

Anyway in telling my sweet wife about my blog posting she was not amused. She did not think it was right of me to mention Bishop Fulton Sheen or the good Bishop's cape, as the Bishop is a candidate for sainthood.

My idea for yesterday's post
originated from a newspaper article I read about a Muslim TV cleric. It struck me ironic that the Eastern side of the world has similar television shows as the Western side of the planet.

For good measure I included my thoughts as a youngster about the Bishop Fulton J Sheen Show. If you are unfamiliar with the Bishop, he was quite dramatic and wore a cape. Well my favorite superheroes likewise wore a cape. When I played like I was Superman, I took my blanket around my shoulders and made a cape. So the Bishop was alright in my 5 year old mind.

If I would show a picture of Bishop Sheen to my 3 year old grandson who also wears a cape and is a superhero. He would probably ask me if the Bishop fights bad guys.

If I upset anyone else, I am indeed sorry.

I am always up for learning new things. Since my wife pointed out that the clergy had capes prior to superheroes cashing in on the cape franchise, I thought I would investigate this matter.

Although what the Catholic Clergy wear certainly appears to be a cape it is in fact not a cape. The garment is called a Cope. And that is the truth. In Latin it is known as a Pluviale (rain coat) or Cappa which is translated cape. But it is still known as a Cope. It is not just common to the Roman Catholic clergy as the Evangelical Lutheran Church clergy also wear a Cope.

It can be worn by all clergy. If it is worn by a bishop it should be accompianied by a Mitre (hat) and have a highly decorated clasp. The Cope originally had a hood also known as a cowl, but after it became a vestment rather than an article of clothing the hood shrunk to the point of being merely ornamental.

The Cope is not worn by the celebrant during Mass. The celebrant wears a Chausable. In my oppinion the Chausable looks like a very decorative poncho sans the hood.

So I hope I have set the record straight. Clergy wear Copes and superheroes wear Capes.

I believe we can all cope with this.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

TV Religion

When I was a little kid I really loved watching television. I can recall sitting in front of what Grandma called the Idiot Box for hours and hours watching Uncle Al, Skipper Ryle, Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody, the Mickey Mouse Club and the McCarthy hearings. (Yeah, I really do remember the McCarthy hearings).

My Grandmother was afraid that someday I would worship TV.

In the early days of televsion it was only a logical progression that radio preachers would make the jump. Since then there has been an endless stream of persons from differing denominations and pursuasions beamed into the ether and to the antenna and cable of our TV.

At times the TV hosts can be very informative and at times the host seems only interested in money.

Imagine my surprise this week when an Egyptian TV cleric made the news. I had no idea these shows existed on the other side of the world. This got me to wondering if they were anything like US TV shows.

From the Daily News:
"CAIRO: Egypt’s productivity problems can be solved by praying less and working more, Egyptian-born Muslim cleric and television host Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi said in a fatwa (religious edict) on his website, “Praying is a good thing ... 10 minutes should be enough,” Al-Jazeera television celebrity Qaradawi says."

I assumed the United States was the only country in the world to experience the 700 Club, Paul and Jan Crouch's Trinity Broadcasting Network and other similar shows. But this is not true.

I have to wonder if the Sheikh begs for money and has a crying wife with pink hair. No, I suppose her hair would be covered.

Though I seldom watch these sort of shows I have to say back when I was a child, my all time favorite religious host was Bishop Fulton Sheen.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old and Bishop Sheen came on TV I turned the TV tuner to channel 12 so I could watch him. This was because the Bishop wore a cape and all my favorite superheroes wore capes. Superman, Zorro, Mighty Mouse and Batman all wore capes just like Bishop Sheen.

Imagine my disappointment when I later learned to read and discovered that Bishop Sheen never made it into The Justice League of America.