Category Archives: church

If Only Rev. Phelps Had A Beard

A&E networks has now shown us that if Rev. Phelps had a beard, the Westboro Baptist Church could have their own tv show right after Storage Wars as well. A while back Phil Robertson of A&E’s Duck Dynasty did an interview and decided to explain his thoughts on homosexuality. Like Rick Santorum before him, he decided to equate homosexuality with bestiality. He claimed his reason for doing so was because of his deeply held religious beliefs and love of God. We all know what God thinks of homosexuals, just ask Rev. Phelps and his crew. Of course it amazes me that if God hates gays so deeply why He hasn’t figured out a way to stop making them yet. If we went to a restaurant that screwed up our order that often, we’d be on social media screaming about it, but we wouldn’t be blaming the food.

Initially A&E suspended Phil from the show. That’s when those champions of free speech, the Conservatives, stepped up and started protesting. These are the same people who forced ABC to pull Bill Maher off the air after 9-11 for a remark he made. At the time White House press secretary Ari Fleischer even warned people need to watch what they say. And we also need to remember how committed these people were to free speech when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks spoke out against George W. Bush for invading Iraq during a concert in England. Where was their outrage when Alec Baldwin was suspended for possibly using a gay slur during a private altercation that happened to be caught on video. No, conservatives are only interested in protecting free speech when it’s speech they agree with coming from someone who shares their political views. The rest of the Robertson clan decided that they couldn’t imagine going on without Phil and so A&E, not wanting to lose their cash cow of a show, quickly reversed course and brought Phil back.

Personally, I am all for freedom of speech and don’t believe Phil should have been suspended for making his homophobic and racist comments and blaming them on God. I just think we need to find out if he is a hypocrite or not. He claims he makes these statements because of his staunch belief in the word of God (you know, kind of like the 9-11 terrorists and their belief in Allah and jihad which made killing all those people a-okay and religiously justified), so let’s see if he believes in everything the Bible says. The Bible mentions feeding the poor a whole bunch, so how about opening a string of Duck Commander homeless shelters and food pantries all across the country. The Bible says to love thy neighbor, so let’s see an episode where these Southern boys have a group of Muslims over for a duck hunt. How about some inner-city youths being brought in to share their home for the summer? And I think I know what would make the perfect Easter special. Since the Bible demands stoning for a multitude of sins from homosexual behavior, to blaspheming the name of the Lord, to being a “stubborn and rebellious” child, how about an all-star stoning special? They could probably wipe out the casts of half of Bravo’s shows in what would surely be a ratings bonanza. Of course the Bible also says that “thou shalt not kill”, and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” and a whole bunch of other contradictory things that tend to indicate that maybe God doesn’t want His children killing each other even if it’s justified by the word of God.

But that’s the tricky thing about the Bible. Most people like to believe that it was written word for word by God Himself when in fact it was written by men. Men, who although divinely inspired, are human and thus flawed. Books have been left out of the Bible. The meaning of some words have changed over time. Some words or ideas may not translate well, and most of today’s translations were taken from previous translations which could also have errors. It’s also worth noting that some powerful men were not above using the Bible to force their desires upon the people. Since raw pork could make a person deathly sick, God said don’t eat pigs. Some genetic lines have shellfish allergies, so God said stay away from the shrimp as well. And since civilizations needed their citizens to produce offspring so that they would have more citizens to build things and fight wars, well is it so hard to believe that they would want to steer their people away from non-reproductive sex acts like homosexuality? Let’s face it, a law can tell people not to do something and they will ignore it and hope they don’t get caught. But have the church tell them that God said it was a no-no and thousands of years later people will still be trying to enforce it.

Easter Sunday Reflections

When I was a kid I always looked forward to Easter. Easter to me meant an Easter Basket which usually would contain my favorite seasonal candies and at least one small to medium toy that I had been wanting. It was like a very early Christmas stocking in many ways. Easter also meant getting dressed up in nice clothes and going to church and Sunday school after which I would come back home and the family would all gather for an Easter Egg hunt. I was never very good at finding the eggs, but I always enjoyed it anyway. The eggs would contain candies, small toys, or sometimes money. Of course by money I mean a few pennies, a nickel, a dime, or maybe a quarter. I don’t recall the eggs ever having anything larger than a quarter. A dollar bill in those days would have been like a kid today finding a fifty or a hundred. A dollar would buy a comic, a slurpee, and a candy bar. That was a full meal for a kid.

I looked forward to Easter Sunday just like I looked forward to Christmas. I know a lot of kids might have frowned on getting dressed up and going to church, but I enjoyed that part as well. I was in awe of our church’s minister, Rev. John Shadburn. Rev. Shadburn made all the kids feel special and when he smiled at you and spoke to you, he perfectly encapsulated what God’s love meant to a kid. I was so thrilled with Rev. Shadburn and the church at the time that many people assumed I would likely grow up to be a minister as well. Of course the Methodist church doesn’t like to leave a minister in the same church for very long and Rev. Shadburn soon departed St. Paul’s, replaced by Rev. Arnold Belcher. Rev. Belcher was a fine preacher, but he was not the boisterous, larger than life personality that Rev. Shadburn was in my eyes. And where I was favored by Rev. Shadburn, other children were favored slightly by Rev. Belcher. I wasn’t ignored, or shunned, or treated badly. I just wasn’t made to feel as special as Rev. Shadburn made me feel.

I began to lose interest in the church and soon Mom and I quit attending on a weekly basis. Years later after I had graduated and moved away, Mom started going back to St. Paul’s on a regular basis. She had always kept in contact with the church and remained a member of their women’s group. With me gone and living away, she had more time and became a more active member of the church once again. The church had been through a few different preachers since I left, and they had one that Mom truly enjoyed. Rev. Frank Shomo had breathed new life into the church. He had a special children’s sermon each week as well as the sermon geared for the adults. He welcomed everyone and he understood what Rev. Shadburn had known. You have to make the children love coming to church in order for them to hear the message of the church. He also seemed to understand that the young adults and teens were important as well. Where the church let me slip away as a teenager, Rev. Shomo kept his teens and young adults engaged. He understood that these were the people who were starting out in to the world or in the case of the older ones, starting their own families. If you lost them, you also lost the next generation. But Rev. Shomo didn’t forget about the older members either. He respected the elders of the church and celebrated every day that they were still with the church. He was an amazing minister, and he even managed to lure me back into the church to the delight of my mom.

But, as they say, all good things must end. Rev. Shomo was moved to a different church by the Methodist leadership. I also moved to a city 30 miles away from St. Paul’s. I could have used the help of my church family in moving, but no one stepped up and volunteered. My mother fell and broke her hip. She was unable to attend church or the meetings of the women’s group. The church responded by essentially forgetting about my mom except to remind her that her yearly tithed offering was not up to date. No one visited her, and only a couple of the women even called her. The new minister didn’t step up either.

I tried a new church in the town I moved to and was greatly disappointed. There was no children’s program, no youth program, no young adult program. There was nothing to make me look forward to being with these people every Sunday morning, and even less reason for my young children to want to be there. St’ Paul’s never called or wrote to ask me how I was doing either. The last contact I had with St. Paul’s was when I stopped there one Saturday morning for a rummage sale. I bought a few items and my wife and I noticed another item we were going to purchase, but we didn’t have the cash on us. I asked if they would take a check. They very firmly told me no. I am still on the books as a member of the church, but apparently membership does not have its privileges.

I have heard several news reports lately about how the church is losing members left and right. How young people don’t relate to the church and the church’s teaching on homosexuality and other issues. I hear the church complaining about how it is portrayed in the media and blaming that on the declining numbers, and I can’t help but think that they’ve got it all wrong. The people didn’t just give up on the church. The church forgot about taking care of their people.

How Much Is Your Childhood Worth?

Yesterday I was discussing several toys from my childhood about which I wished I had more information. Shortly after posting the article I was able to find out what two of the four items were called. Elated to know what these critters were actually called, I quickly hopped on eBay where I found out that those little pieces of plastic and rubber were worth quite a little bit. My little ghost, a Kooky Spooky called Baby Spook Em, was part of a group of four figures that were currently selling for over $120. A new Grandma McCreak still in the box was sitting at $500.

Let me try and make this as clear as I can. All this toy consists of is a little glow in the dark plastic finger puppet of a ghost with a painted on face. They each initially came with a little sign or other accessory, but the set of four, like my own Baby Spook Em, were all missing their signs or whatever. This means that a little finger puppet that vaguely resembles a floating sheet with eyes and a mouth painted on it is selling by itself for about $30. I might pay that for one of these ghosts still in their haunted house display box, but loose and without the sign, I would be hard pressed to go above $5.

The little rubber dungeon men were equally surprising. By the way, quick side note, do not put rubber dungeon men in your Google image search and hope to find these toys. I learned very quickly to use the term prisoners instead. Once I found the little rubber toys, I learned that they were called jigglers and that they also sold for a premium on eBay.

This morning I told my wife about what I had found out and her response was, “Great. Let’s sell yours.” Here’s the problem. I’ve had these toys packed away in the attic untouched for several years. They haven’t been played with or displayed since I was in grade school back in the early seventies. For all intents and purposes if they turned up missing, I wouldn’t even realize it unless I decided to do a search through the boxes of toys to try and locate them. Never the less, the thought of selling them is completely anathema to me. I may not want to spend $127 trying to give Baby Spook Em a family to hang around with, but I’d still rather have my old finger puppet ghost than the $30+ it might bring me on eBay.

So what is your childhood worth? How much would you take for the old treasures of your youth? How much would you pay to get them back? I have replaced several toys that I used to have with ones I found on eBay, and I have replaced some with modern reproductions where the original is extremely pricey and usually missing key accessories. I would love to have some better Major Matt Mason toys, but I know I would never pay the prices that they fetch on eBay. At the same time I would never think about selling my beat up old Major and his buddies even if I was offered $100 each for them as is.

To my mind there is an intangible part of my childhood still trapped inside of these little pieces of plastic. As long as I have them in my possession, my childhood will never completely slip away. The replacements and add-ons that I might pick up are just that. They have none of the magic of my childhood trapped inside of them. They are just pieces of plastic representing something I played with. The exception seems to be when I find a deal at a flea market or yard sale. About 20 years ago I stumbled across a couple of boxes of old model kits at a church yard sale. Some one had cleaned out their son’s old room and donated all of these old built up kits to the church. I bought every one of them, even the duplicates. There was Batman, Frankenstein, some sports kits, a space ship. They had all been assembled. Some had been painted. Many were missing pieces. The thing is you could still feel the love that the previous owner had for these toys. It was infused in the very plastic of these kits. They sold me the whole lot for about $5. I would have paid much much more for them. The kits are all collectible and I could easily make my money back just by selling any one of them, but I won’t. They aren’t just models. They are childhood memories, even if they aren’t mine, and childhood memories are priceless.

The Way We Were

One of the reasons I started this blog was to talk about what it was like being a child in the late sixties/early seventies. Today’s kids are used to going to the grocery store, scanning their frequent shopper card, and then paying for their purchase with a credit or debit card. When I was a kid you didn’t need a frequent shopper card to get the sale price or earn bonus discounts. The sale prices were clearly posted if the store hadn’t already reticketed all of the sale items with a sale price sticker. Oh, and everybody got the sale price, not just the shoppers with the card. After you checked out and paid with cash, the cashier would hand you a receipt and a handful of either Top Value or S&H Green Stamps. These sticky little pieces of paper were collected into a book which you could take to a special shop that would convert your stamps into a gift based on the value of the stamps you had accumulated. You could get a lamp or a toaster or a table. If you saved up enough you could get larger items as well.

By the time I was a kid, payment was definitely by cash. There were a few people who used checks, but they were few and far between in WV. Credit cards hadn’t arrived yet in any real force either as far as I recall. Mom got her check, cashed it, and paid for everything with cash. If we bought something by mail, we got a money order. The thing is, twenty years earlier, Mom would have simply walked into the locally owned grocery store, gathered her items, and the store would have added everything up and put it on her bill. When Dad would get paid, they would go down to the grocery store and pay their bill. Can you imagine doing that today? Sure a few rural Mom & Pop stores will let their regulars run a tab, but try getting Walmart or Krogers to let you leave without anything but a verbal promise to pay on check day. There’s one other big difference I’ve noticed as well. Back then when the shopper told the shopkeep that they would pay them on payday, that bill was the first thing those people took care of. I watched two stores in Gandeeville go out of business last year partly because of unpaid bills from regulars they had let run up a tab.

Another major change in shopping from when I was young involves the hours of operation. Most stores were not open on Sundays. No grocery stores, no department stores, no gasoline stations. The only exception might have been a drug store. People were expected to be in church on Sunday morning and visiting with family or relaxing at home the rest of the day. If you wanted to go out, you could go see a movie. By the time I really started paying attention, there were a few additional stores open. I remember going out to eat at BBF or Burger Chef on Sunday afternoons before or after seeing a movie. Teays Valley was one of the final holdouts on the Sunday business hours. They enforced these “blue laws” well up into my grade school years. What changed their minds? Hecks opened a store and wanted to open it for business seven days a week. I have been told that quite a bit of money was spent in getting the city to change its mind. However it came to pass, once the genie was out of the bottle, Sunday just became another day of commerce. People talk about the drop in church attendance and always want to point to taking prayer out of the schools. I think the real reason is they gave people a choice of things to do on Sunday. If the only places you could go to get out of the house were church and the houses of family members, you went to church and visited with the aunts and uncles.