June 26th, 2013


When the blind lead the blind, what good are pictures?

I was reading a clergy blog the other day in which the writer said that he didn't find it easy to change his preaching methods to include visuals, but that it was necessary to reach people today. Really? Stand-up comedians rarely use pictures; but then, they study how to hold an audience's interest. Why don't preachers do this?

I've given lots of talks that included visuals. I understand visuals. But I also know that visuals are overpowering things and when you include them, they turn your listeners into viewers. That's okay, if your verbal content is powerful enough, but a weak verbal presentation overmatched by visuals is like a boat with too big a sail: you will run yourself under the waves and sink.

But, you know -- if your verbal content is powerful enough, then you probably don't need to add visuals; in fact, visuals would restrict the applicability of what you say to a single channel, whereas words can paint more possibilities in people's minds than pictures can. Which is just another way of saying that if you're a good enough preacher, you don't need pictures.

I've seen so many mediocre power-point presentations, sat through so many Emmaus talks where the posters had little to do with what was being said, even seen sermons that became about the pictures. And don't get me started on spelling: one of the worst power-points I've ever sat through was given by a representative of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, in which a major spelling or grammatical mistake occurred on at least two out of every three of an interminable number of slides. It was like a reading of Vogon poetry.

Here's an idea. If you really must be so rarified or technical that you fear that people will have trouble following your very important points, the best technique I know is simply cut it short. A shorter sermon, more tightly focussed, will always be more powerful than a longer sermon, however groovy the pictures are.
says who

Stony the road we trod

The world got uglier today, with the naked imposition of What I Like from SCOTUS. Some discouraged conservatives think we have to cut the best deal we can now, while the radicals' victory is still fresh, lest we be relegated to the unheard, uncountenanced, unacceptable status of those who once resisted racial integration.

I think they're wasting their breath. I discern no magnanimity in the progressives at all. Theirs is a spirit devoid of charity, which gloats and glowers above those it brings down. I fully expect in the short term for those of us currently in the majority to be treated as pariahs, with the intent of intimidating us into saying what they demand we say.

I refuse to submit. As I wrote long ago, in a protest poem from a time best forgot,
my nose is blue
I cannot swallow
the rancid Gainesburgers
And I don't think it's quite as bleak as it feels right now.

Yes, they will vilify us, as they go on to re-create society in their image; however, if marriage traditionalists fear being tarred as bigots a la the segregationists of yore, I think they might be mistaken. Think not of the unlamented segregationists, but of those who protested abortion on demand. These Court cases are like Roe v. Wade in that regard. Roe didn't make abortion legal -- that was already coming to pass in several jurisdictions. What Roe did was to trump all jurisdictions' powers at once. The Court in that case short-circuited the democratic process and thereby created more turmoil than they ever avoided.

Those who opposed Roe -- either as a moral outrage or as wrongly decided -- were indeed vilified, but they have persevered. And they are winning. Each new generation is more pro-life than preceding ones. And in return, the proponents of unlimited abortion have overplayed their hand. They have shown that they don't really care about scared young women or poor women or women with risky medical conditions -- all they care about is dead babies. They refuse to be reasonable about anything -- facility inspections, limits on late-term abortions, parental notification, making sure women know their options -- all they care about is the public and private good of another dead baby.

So they will be with marriage. For in the end, they don't really care about gay people living fulfilling lives in stable relationships. They just care about destroying marriage as we know it between ordinary men and women.

If Roe were overturned tomorrow, it wouldn't end abortion in America. Abortion is a problem with deep roots. Hippocrates forbade it in his Oath, which only means that it was present in his society, too. The opponents of Roe would disagree among themselves about how to handle the issue once Roe is gone -- but that's what democracy's about. They're not like the extremists on the other side, who are all very sure that they're right and everybody else is evil.

And so it is with these cases decided today. Rolling them back won't end the arguments about sexuality and relationships. Nor will it lead to persecution of gay people. Those of us who oppose the erosion of traditional marriage are not the extremists here. And if it takes us thirty or forty years to repair the damage being done in this generation, all the while being vilified by the radicals, well so be it.

We are not the extremists here.