January 9th, 2015


Beware the naked man who offers you his shirt

President Obama wants to give two years of community college free to young people willing to go. I think that's a bad idea for two reasons.

First, because it'd another huge expense for the country with no way to pay for it. Free stuff really isn't free, and we've booped on the booper valve way too much already.

But also, encouraging people to go to college sets people up for defeat unless they are prepared to go. College isn't some magic enlightenment machine or career-making thing that works independently of your effort. If you can't do college level work, it won't do you much good to go to college. And if you can't get a degree -- even an Associate degree -- completed within a reasonable amount of time, you're just wasting your time, delaying your entry into what level of the job market you can reach.

Our problem in the US isn't access -- anybody can get into community college. Nor is our problem cost -- anybody can afford to go, as long as one can reasonably expect to make the grades and finish. Our problem is too many young people are not ready to do college level work, nor do they have a realizable goal they can complete.

The President's proposal really doesn't benefit students, nor was it designed to. Its guarantee of funding would primarily benefit college employees (especially administrators), who are a reliably Democrat voting bloc. Which is the real point.

Be not faithless, but believing

I am sitting in a Benedictine retreat center in Indy/Beech Grove this afternoon. I'm at a Conference candidacy retreat for people who are exploring professional ministry. I'm one of the mentors on hand to take them through the process toward being certified as a candidate and being invited to attend Local Pastors School.

Right now, they're all taking the denominationally-required psych tests. The mentors had their training session. We killed an hour, and we're done. But they're going to be filling out inventories from the bug hatchery all afternoon. As we like to say in the UM clergy, "these aren't to determine if you're crazy, but if you're the right kind of crazy to be a minister.

Mentoring those who are exploring a call, right up to through the process of candidacy and/or ordination, is just part of what we ordained folk do. Who knows, one of these people here trying to figure out where God is leading him or her might be my pastor some day -- or yours. So it's important that we all do a good job helping them.

Today, in the opening worship, we were all encouraged to think of those who encouraged us, or who affirmed our call, or supported us in the process. I'm thinking back and remembering: John Honeay, my Scoutmaster, also a Baptist minister; Don Wade, our pastor when we joined the church as young marrieds; Charlie DuMond and Bart Fletcher, my first Superintendents; all the Scouts and confirmands and youth group members whom I saw grow under my leadership; the folks at Bethesda and West Terre Haute First who healed my heart and made it possible for me to re-enter the full-time pastorate after I got my Ph.D.; and especially my wife, whom I shocked forty-one years ago this month when after only one month of marriage I told her I had been called to some kind of ministry.

They all believed in me. These candidates need people to believe in them, too. They probably won't all finish this process. Not all will have very long careers, even if they do. But they all need someone to believe in them and help them become their best. Which is really what ministry is about all the way around, and not just when talking about ministerial candidates.

The people who doubt themselves, who doubt their relationship with God, who doubt who God is, cannot be argued into faith or drilled into faith. They have to be believed into faith. We need to show them that we believe in God, but that we also believe in them -- and in what they can become when they give their lives to God.