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October 11, 2004

Real Live Preacher, real book
Posted by Teresa at 11:57 PM * 37 comments

RealLifePreacher.com, Gordon Atkinson’s collection of selected posts from his weblog, has finally come out from Eerdmans: ISBN 0802828108, $14.00, a bit over 180 pages. It’s a handsome little thing, nicely designed, with a foreword by Patrick (which is a swell foreword). The essays are as we know them from the Real Live Preacher site: short, beautifully written, unassuming; seemingly weightless, but having considerable depth. It’s a good book.

Comments on Real Live Preacher, real book:
#1 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 12:47 AM:

Isn't he just wonderful? It makes me feel good that somewhere there is a spiritual community that this man feels like a member of.

#2 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:42 AM:

This sounds like a good way to advance the trend of blogs as a waystation to hardcopy books, just as short stories and newspaper/magazine essays used to be. The material on the best blogs (such as making Light) would have delighted (if puzzled) Fletcher & Beaumont, say, or Benjamin Franklin, or Mark Twain, or James Blish.

In a parallel way, websites of mathematical facts, discussions, or little factoids can be spun into books, and some have. See, for instance:

"Prime Curios!" is an exciting collection of curiosities, wonders and trivia related to prime numbers.

"I have met many folk who could not see the value in stopping to smell a wildflower, collecting a unique coin, or watching the rolling clouds in a spring-time thunderstorm. The old maxim states: 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Why not sample a few of our curios and see how our eye compares?'"

The editors have impressed me, as well and the hundreds of contributors. Said editors have accepted perhaps a quarter of my submissions, as charted at:

Jonathan Vos Post: 102 curios about 91 different numbers

I particularly suggest that even the math-indifferent might enjoy my mini-essay:

3127097 (another Prime Pages' Curiosity):

"As a final note on the sonnets of William Shakespeare, he uses the word "prime" exactly 4 times in the 154 sonnets...." Details follow, but I'd like to respect the editors' copyright and limit this extract.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 06:52 AM:

The primary waystation to a hardcover book is still a manuscript.

#4 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 08:40 AM:

I'm working on Eggs of the Cuckoo: Essays I Wrote on Other People's Blogs.

I'm hoping Jonathan will write a foreword for my book.

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 09:04 AM:

Regarding the benign idea that "somewhere there is a spiritual community that this man feels like a member of", one of his best essays is How to Find a Church.

Let me guess. You’re looking for a cool church, filled with authentic Christians who aren’t judgmental, but also have convictions, and are hip and classic in just the right mixture. A church where people forgive each other, and love children, and worship in meaningful ways. A church with a swingin' preacher who makes the bible come alive, and tells great stories, and is a wonderful inspiration, and plays disc golf too. A church that isn’t liberal or conservative, but seems to transcend weak-ass categories like those. A church where the hunger for truth is honored, and people can disagree but still love each other and share a plate of tacos. A church where people are committed to “The Christ Life” and it shows in the fabulous and creative ways they love the world.
That what you’re looking for?
I got ya. I understand.
Here are some tips to help you in your search.
1. You won’t find that church.
One of the things I like best about Atkinson is that he writes honestly about spiritual failure.

#7 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 09:52 AM:

A church where the hunger for truth is honored, and people can disagree but still love each other and share a plate of tacos.

I'd be happy if I could honestly trust any church to fulfill just this one.

Partly, it's my own issues (I grew up a fundamentalist); mostly, it's the weight of two millenia of mind games in the service of power and control.

That I live in North Carolina, where such mind games are so much a part of the fabric of the subculture, doesn't help.

But knowing that there are churches like RLP's out there somewhere is comforting, even if I never manage to find one.

#8 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 10:09 AM:

I really think his point (read the whole essay, it's short) is that you won't find the idyll you imagine. It's a good point about human communities, religious or otherwise. Utopia is always somewhere else; people are as they are; look more closely; attend.

#9 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 10:32 AM:

I read the whole essay, and I sure didn't take the point that the desire for better things is vain.

Effortless perfection is a vain hope, sure, but not these morons isn't that hope, just like if I want this I have to build it isn't that desire.

#10 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:00 AM:

"A church where the hunger for truth is honored, and people can disagree but still love each other and share a plate of tacos."

We had something like that at my church in New York--at least, it was what everyone was earnestly striving for, which got us through a lot of politics and human stupidity. I had a honeymoon phase where I thought it was everything Atkinson outlines in that paragraph, and then a brief disillusionment phase where I realized that my fellow UUs were just as dopey and prone to forget to love each other as everyone outside the church. And then I settled into just showing up and trying to do my best and honor the journey. We didn't eat a whole lot of tacos, maybe that would have enhanced the process--but it was a good place, and I miss it a lot.

#11 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:05 AM:

I don't think either Patrick or RLP is saying the desire for better things is in vain. But human communities are made up of humans. Sometimes they're glorious; sometimes they suck. Sure I can disagree with you and still love you. Some days. Other days I'll snarl and then burst into tears.

MKK

#12 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:25 AM:

Mary Kay gets it exactly right.

I think RLP is saying don't let your vision of perfection alienate you from people as they are, because people as they are are what we've got.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:31 AM:

Isn't this called "not letting the Perfect become the enemy of the Good"? Trite as that is, how come we forget it in spiritual communities? People like RLP, not that there are people like him, help us remember this.

A human community with no internal politics is a contradiction in terms.

#14 ::: JeanOG ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 11:54 AM:

Graydon, re not these morons: Absolutely.

Patrick, I did read the whole essay. I found some of his suggestions amusing. In this area, small groups meeting in members homes are far more likely to be splinter groups who think the Southern Baptist Convention is too liberal than to be accepting and nurturing.

I know there is no perfect community. I'm lamenting my own half-healed wounds as much as I'm casting stones at my subculture.

I don't think of a church as a place of worship. Worship can and does occur everywhere. A church is a community and, in my experience, is almost always a community that offers its members two choices: march in lockstep or be shunned. Some things you don't dare express doubts about.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:37 PM:

Jean, I've known communities where the choices didn't boil down to conformity or expulsion, though I haven't known enough of them. My working model is that a lot of people who seem absolutely rigid about their beliefs and practices are actually far more anxious about them than they care to admit, even to themselves. For instance, the single biggest predictor of whether someone's going to stay an active Mormon is their investment in it to date. A young man who's served a two-year mission, or a woman who's had three or four children in as many years, are more likely to be fervently orthodox than someone who incurs no loss of spiritual equity by walking away.

I like RLP. He walked away, then came back.

#16 ::: Steve Eley ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 01:56 PM:

Teresa:
Jean, I've known communities where the choices didn't boil down to conformity or expulsion, though I haven't known enough of them.

Two reasons I like my church:


  1. When somebody goes to get political yard signs, they ask how many people want one for Kerry and how many want one for Bush.

  2. They asked me to run a service within about six months of my joining. I said, "Are you sure? I don't really know much about God." They said, "Who does? We just want to hear you talk."


(I think I did all right, too, though it be vanity to say so.)

#18 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 12, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey:

"I'm working on Eggs of the Cuckoo: Essays I Wrote on Other People's Blogs. I'm hoping Jonathan will write a foreword for my book." -- clever, and I do get the point.

But, seriously, I am deeply engaged in writing forewords and in the community value of churches, synagogues, and mosques.

I have written forewords for books as diverse as poetry by Fritz's Lieber's wife Margo, and for the collected correspondence between Arthur C. Clarke and C. S. Lewis.

I have performed a number of weddings, mostly for scientist couples who want the trappings of religiosity to satisfy their parents, and yet want a unique ceremony with a sectarian vows.

I do, you're right, have a tendency to wend my own circuitous way through other peoples' bandwidth. Yet my links above were to a blog where people actually WANT the sort of math trvia that is inappropriate for Making Light.

Let 10^3 flowers bloom!

I actually had a version of this replied previewed a minute or two after your posting, but we had another blackout in the neighborhood, which wiped out an hour of my Appellate Opening Brief due to be filed tomorrow. Fortunately I'd saved the many citations on the 7th Amendment after the first early morning hour.

#19 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 03:14 AM:

OK, on the subject of religion vs. religiosity and bloggers, I have to say I'm also a huge fan of Fred

#20 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 03:39 AM:

For what it's worth, I'm pretty much completely satisfied with my local parish, enough so that I built and maintain its web site. I occasionally hear jokes about internal politics, but other than one muttered remark five years ago I've never found evidence of it. The closest thing to an argument I've witnessed was a lively but friendly discussion during a recent coffee hour between a too-desperate Democrat and a smiling, laid-back Libertarian.

Plus, once a year I get to take my dog to church.

Too bad I'm moving away next year.

#21 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:00 AM:

Karen Funk Blocher:

"... once a year I get to take my dog to church."

But I thought that All Dogs Go to Heaven
with Burt Reynolds as Charlie B. Barkin,
Dom DeLuise as Itchy Itchiford,
Judith Barsi as Anne-Marie, and
Melba Moore as Whippet Angel (Annabelle)...

I take my dog to the Huntington Dog Beach. But, on yesterday's walk, we we barred from the San Gabriel National Forrest due to severe fire danger, and instead walked parallel to the stream in back of JPL (but were barred from descending to the non-dried-out part of said stream for said reason).

#22 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 12:55 PM:

JVP objects,

But I thought that All Dogs Go to Heaven

Depends on your pop culture reference. My mom wrote a musical adaptation of Taziwell's The Littlest Angel decades ago (roughly the year Johnny Whittaker starred in the Hallmark version, if anyone remembers that). In one of her songs, the angels go through the contents of the eponymous character's treasure box. One of the items is a dog collar. The kid sings about his dog, and asks, "Is he here now?" The angels are scandalized with the thought of a dog in Heaven.

Of course, a story that turns dead humans into bewinged angels is no more theologically significant than the 1965 sitcom The Smothers Brothers Show.

Our pastor, John Smith (!), used to tell a story about a year when he somehow missed a parishioner who brought her sick cat to church late on the afternoon of the feast of St. Francis celebration. "The cat died the next day," John would say ruefully, "without the benefit of clergy."

#23 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 04:32 PM:

Karen: Our pastor, John Smith (!)

My husband, John Smith (!), just called from the airport a few hours ago to let me know his name is now on the Terrorist Watch List.

It was only a matter of time.

#24 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: October 13, 2004, 11:59 PM:

Jill Smith :

My husband, John Smith (!), just called from the airport a few hours ago to let me know his name is now on the Terrorist Watch List.

It was only a matter of time.

I don't know whether to be amused, outraged, sad or all three.

Karen

#25 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 08:20 AM:

Well, amused was first, feeble outrage battled with sadness for a moment, and then amusement took over again.

Apparently, the guy who helped John check in is ALSO on the watch list. He went through the whole fingerprinting, etc. hoo-hah and within a short time was right back on it. (Yes, I'm talking about the guy who works at the airport. If he can't keep off it, there's no hope for John).

I should point out that it's not just John himself - it's anyone named "John Smith." That should make those check-in lines nice and short...

MKK - it could be worse, eh?

#26 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: October 14, 2004, 02:25 PM:

I remember reading somewhere as an example of great jesuitical cleverness a story about a priest who told a distraught woman whose pet had just died that if it were necesssary to her happiness to see her dog again in heaven, she would.

#27 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 07:44 PM:

Having lived in a secular intentional community, and visited a lot of them -- n*ne of them are perfect, either. They're just a lot more interesting than living without community, and overall more conducive to growth....

Hmm, this refused to post because of questionable content: apparently the word "n*ne" is unacceptable here. Maybe they thought I was misspelling "nun" on a religious thread?

#28 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: October 16, 2004, 08:13 PM:

Quoth Tom Whitmore: n*ne of them are perfect

Oooh, a partial self-disemvowelling!

It's just a goof in the MT filter. A couple of days ago, I tried to enter a comment on The Apostropher that included the word "socialist". Unfortunately, I was blocked because "socialst" contains a popular pharma product not endorsed by Bob Dole. A quick email exchange cleared it all up.

#29 ::: RYAN ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:34 AM:

I LOVE YOU

#30 ::: RYAN ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:34 AM:

I LOVE YOU

#31 ::: RYAN ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:34 AM:

I LOVE YOU

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 11:38 AM:

Why, thank YOU.

#33 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 12:08 PM:

Sssh, Serge, I think he's doing "Michelle Ma Belle".

#34 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 12:16 PM:

...sont des mots qui vont très bien ensemble, très bien ensemble.

#35 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 12:40 PM:

What? Only *three* I LOVE YOUs? I'm going to need more than that, plus some chocolates.

#36 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 12:47 PM:

He should really go ahead and send flowers.

#37 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2009, 12:47 PM:

Steve C. @36: plus some chocolates

..and none of that Godiva crap* either.

*Ooh, look: crossthreading!

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