4 (of many) Things Wrong with Rick Perry’s Abysmal Ad

Within the last week, Rick Perry has managed to stir up a lot of controversy with a new ad he has released declaring war on Obama’s war on religion. There are a number of things wrong with Perry’s ad, and I am here to point out a few of them. Just so we’re on the same page Here’s a full text of the ad, just to catch people up. (I’m posting the text of the ad because I refuse to post a video link of that garbage on this site.)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

Here we go.

1) We need to stop declaring wars on emotions and concepts. Obama doesn’t have a war on religion. He’s the Muslim with the controversial United Church of Christ pastor, remember? That’s like doubly religious. Wars have real enemies. The wars on religion, drugs, terror etc are insane because their target is amorphous. In my opinion, wars are the last thing Perry will ever look to end. Which brings us to…

2) There’s something wrong in this country when gays CAN’T serve openly in the military. The object of someone’s sexual desire does not hinder their ability to serve and protect this country. It’s like saying all left-handed can’t serve in the military (not a perfect metaphor, but close). In the end, when you’re in battle, it just does not matter who the other person goes home to at night.

3) Your kids can pray in schools all they want. This whole thing about how kids can’t pray in school is absurd. Of course they can. The law you are thinking of simply states that teachers are not allowed to lead the class in prayers. Which is fine, and do you know why? Because…

4) This whole thing is about respect. You know what doesn’t contribute to the overall respect for people? When a candidate who is supposed to be a leader, spouts a philosophy of “us vs. them” politics which fundamentally divides. As someone who is going to be a pastor, I whole-heartedly agree that faith can make us strong. But faith that is belligerent in the face of such blatant disrespect makes us all weaker.

So Mr. Perry, Governor Perry… do us all a favor and leave. Ride off into the night. Tuck your tail between your legs and get out of public discourse. Because what you’re saying is not good for anyone. Much less Christians.

Cheers,
Eric

Also… how funny is it that he’s wearing the same jacket as Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain”? You can’t make it up.

The Close Relationship of Grey Poupon and the Modern Church

Malcolm Gladwell has a great TED Talk out right now that talks about mustard. For a very long time, mustard lovers didn’t have a lot of variety to choose from. The basic choice was either French’s or Gulden’s, basic yellow mustards. Mustard seeds, turmeric, and a little paprika was all you needed to make mustard.  Until the early 1980’s. Then came Grey Poupon. Darker mustard seeds, white wine. Different than the other two. But the marketing campaign is what set it apart.

They packaged the mustard in a tiny glass jar and charged $4.00 more than any other mustard at the time. And those commercials! We’ve all seen the commercial (or perhaps the Wayne’s World parody) where the Rolls Royce pulls up alongside the other Rolls Royce and one extraordinarily wealthy man asks another if he has any Grey Poupon. And then sales of Grey Poupon skyrocketed. Completely through the roof.

So if we’re a little dense, we might say that the take-home lesson for a church or business is that people want to pay more than they do for some condiments because they taste better and are different than the others. And somehow that might inspire them to be different as well.

I don’t think that’s necessarily right. I think it’s about identity.

Those Grey Poupon commercials, and really everything about that marketing campaign, forced consumers to ask the question, “What kind of mustard consumer am I?” Am I one who is content and satisfied with the ordinary French’s? Or do I want to be sophisticated like these men in their Rolls Royce’s? Because the economy was good and people were still reaching for that American Dream, they bought Grey Poupon in order to reinforce that they were the kind of sophisticated people who would buy Grey Poupon.

Believe it or not, this relates directly to the church.

The key question that is currently at the center of the “seeker” church is “What kind of Christian am I?” and then trying to find an appropriate representation of that in the community. Am I the kind of Christian that wants a message of social justice? Am I the kind of Christian that wants a coffeehouse in my church? Am I the kind of person that wants a strong musical presence in worship? The list goes on and on. Because choosing a church community is fundamentally a question of identity.

What kind of church are you choosing? What ministry are you helping create? Whether or not it has any affiliation with a church is rather inconsequential. What environment are you creating by the way you assemble your identity? These are interesting and important questions that will say a lot as we move forward into a time of increasingly blurred lines of our own identity.

Cheers,
Eric

Can An Introvert Be a Leader?

I have a confession to make. I, Eric Clapp, am an introvert.

Whew! That feels good to get off of my chest. There seems to be a bias toward extroverted people in positions of leadership. If you’re a leader, people just assume you love to talk to people all of the time. I find this to be particularly true in ministry settings. With five worship services a weekend, in some cases, the social demands of that kind of work for an introvert can be quite taxing. For awhile I wrestled with the question of whether I should be a pastor at all. You have to deal with an awful lot of people if you’re going to be a pastor.

But, alas, here I am. A pastor. And doing okay at it. Maybe it’s because I have this writing as my outlet of ideas, the pressure release, of sorts, for my introversion. As an introvert (and a 3 on the Enneagram scale), I found it would be best if I made a plan. So before I started my internship I made a list of 5 goals to help me learn about leadership from the perspective of an introvert.

1. Schedule downtime. — For at least one hour everyday, I shut everything down and read. That’s my re-charge time. And if I don’t actively schedule it, it can so easily fall by the wayside. That’s my “me” time.

2. When planning meetings, plan to break them up as to avoid one, long period of sitting and talking. — Being the intern, I don’t plan too many meetings. More the attendee. But when I do, or even when I’m planning something like a confirmation class, I break it up into smaller segments so it’s not as exhausting.

3. Be self-aware. — The one bad thing about being an introvert in a social setting is that it can often be interpreted as me being an uninterested jerk. Not the case. Self-awareness is key in so many things, but it’s specifically key for making sure you are not being perceived as something you don’t intend to be.

4. Don’t feel pressure to be constantly social in large group gatherings. Listen first. Speak later. — Listening is a pretty rare art in public discourse these days. Introverts can be very successful leaders because they spend a lot of time observing their surroundings and listening to what people say. This has the capability of giving a pretty unique perspective.

5. When your reaching your limit, feel free to take a walk. — Whenever I feel myself up against the threshold of my social limit, I have found that taking a walk can be the best way to get an immediate re-charge if it isn’t time for the hour of downtime. Just the movement and quiet of taking a walk can help reconnect and debrief, particularly during a long day of meetings.

So can an introvert lead? Absolutely! Does it take some pretty intentional work? Yes, it does. But I think in the end, there are some special gifts that are highlighted in introverts that have the ability to make very quality leaders.

I want to say feel free to join the conversation, but being a fellow introvert, it’s completely okay if you don’t. I understand.

Cheers,
Eric

My Deepest Fear


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

I was recently reading a wonderful book that talks about minuscule shifts in the way we operate on a daily basis that can cause monumental change within the communities we live and work. Combine that with all of the TED talks that I have been listening to lately and inspired would be an understatement. There are so many people doing so many incredible things in the world. The more stories I hear about people’s adventures and things they learn, there is one thing that keeps rising to the top in my thoughts:

The impact that one person can have can be extraordinarily powerful.

I just read Blake Mycoskie’s memoir about how he started TOMS. Same thing. He was traveling in South America and noticed how few kids were wearing shoes. And he decided that he should create a business that opened up people’s awareness of the world while simultaneously helping the kids in this village. I think so often we get caught up in pursuing awareness to an extent that we don’t actually do anything to help the situation.

With almost all situations we face on a daily basis, most people see themselves as confronted with 3 options:

  1. You could do something to make the situation better.
  2. You could do something to make it worse.
  3. You could do nothing at all.

I would actually say that doing nothing is the same thing as doing something to make it worse, so I think there’s really only two options. You can either do something to make your situation better or worse.

In all situations, there has to be progress. There has to be evolution or whatever it is that we’re fighting for will die. We are capable of way more than we give ourselves credit for. Even if the change is so incremental it’s hardly noticeable, it’s moving in the right direction. It’s moving up the hill rather than sliding back down.

However big or small your shot may be… Take it.

Be powerful beyond measure.

I look forward to seeing you in our journey up the hill.

Cheers,
Eric

4 Ways to Incorporate Youth Into Church Life

The church I’m currently at is at a sort of crossroads. On the one hand, we have a great core group of youth that come to youth group on Sunday morning, come to events on Fridays, and are stoked to go to New Orleans next summer for the Youth Gathering. And then on the other, we have a very active community of worship and discipleship. But the two seldom overlap. I have a feeling my experience isn’t the lone case of this happening. In fact, it’s been going on at every church I’ve worked at, so I know it isn’t. The kids get confirmed and become “an adult member” of the church and are then exiled to the “youth room”. If you can see the inconsistency, then you can feel something’s wrong. So the question then becomes: How do we help youth become more involved in the greater life of worship in the church? I have an idea of four things that can help.

1. Involve youth as leaders in the church service itself.

A couple months ago we had a couple of youth help out as readers during the service. It was great. They felt like they were actually a part of the community. And then they’ve been completely absent since. It made the one day they did read almost seem gimmicky. Invite the youth of your church to read, usher, serve communion, do special music… Heck, even get up and tell a story that’s important to them in the sermon time. To involve people of all ages in the community’s time of worship is to really understand what it means to be in ministry together.

2. Invite youth to youth leader meetings.

I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in with other youth leaders and the first question we ask is, “Well what would the youth like to do?” And then we hear crickets chirp. You know who is great at answering questions like that? The youth! Incorporate them into meetings with the pastor/leaders and honestly ask for their input. That way, the youth group becomes more an agent of ministry and less an object of ministry. Huge difference.

3. Blend adult small groups with youth small groups.

Small groups have become all the rage in the church. And that’s great. I think any time people commit to gathering together to talk about their life and faith is a wonderful thing. But I think we would get such a richer portrait of the fullness of life in the congregation if we invite youth into our small groups. If we create small groups based on common interest and not common age, we’d get people interacting with each other that maybe have never said a word to each other. And, call me crazy but, I think that’s pretty cool.

4. Have youth serve on church council

Don’t be quick to dismiss this one. I think there would be a lot of good in having a youth representative on your church council. Find a couple solid, mature teenagers and invite them to be a part of the bigger decisions of the church. Teach them how a budget operates, how the values of the community play out in the decision-making process, how inner conflicts are healthily resolved. These are great lessons for kids to learn and are often exhibited in council meetings.

The key point here isn’t just to concede some of the lesser responsibilities of young people. It’s to get a little bit uncomfortable. It’s to take seriously the responsibility they are given in their confirmation and have the same stake in the church that adults do. If we set a higher standard and hold them to it, I suspect many would step up to it.

Cheers,
Eric

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