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Toilet Tissue Issues

September 17, 2009

I just came across this on my hard drive. I wrote it years ago when our church seemed to be using toilet paper far more quickly than we would have expected.

Toilet Tissue Issues

We have had a few problems over recent weeks with the amount of toilet paper being used. Unless we get a fresh, new supply of paper in the next few weeks, we will have to consider the imposition of restrictions.

In the meantime, we would ask all users to review the amount of paper they are using in the course of their duties.

For your information, here is a copy of the official Schedule of Restrictions.

Schedule of Restrictions (Toilet Paper)

Section 1: Regulations

Paragraph (1)

Notwithstanding Paragraph (2), restrictions may be imposed at the discretion of the Corps Officer. There are no absolute measures indicating the necessity to move between levels. The Corps Officer is not bound to move from restriction to restriction sequentially.

Any imposition of Restrictions should be accompanied by appropriate counselling and training in the care, use and conservation of Toilet Paper.

Paragraph (2)

Restrictions Level 5 may only be imposed with one week’s notice from the Corps Officer, issued by way of

a.prominent notice in all bathrooms
b.memo to all regular users

Section 2: Schedule of Restrictions

1. Toilet paper will be rationed on a bathroom by bathroom basis:

a.Women’s bathroom two rolls per week.
b.Men’s bathroom one roll per week.
c.Disabled bathroom one roll per week.
Any variation to these levels must be approved by the Corps Officer.

2. Toilet paper will be rationed on a bathroom by bathroom basis:

a.Women’s bathroom one roll per week.
b.Men’s bathroom one roll per fortnight.
c.Disabled bathroom one roll per week.
Any variation to these levels must be approved by the Corps Officer.

3. Toilet rolls will only be issued on application to Corps Officer (or nominee). The Corps Officer (or nominee) will not normally dispense more paper than prescribed in Restriction Level 2.
4. Toilet paper will only be issued on application to the Corps Officer (or nominee):

1. (Women only) two squares.
2. (Men and women) four squares.
3. Other uses must be accompanied with a written explanation.

5. Toilet paper will issued according to the provisions in Level 4. It may only be used with supervision by the Corps Officer (or nominee).


Nigerian wedding scam?

July 5, 2009

I just received one of the most creative 419 style spams I think I’ve ever received. Given the nature of my occupation I actually thought it might be real for the first sentence or so. If I were Catholic and lived in England, I may well have fallen for it!


I am Martin Vrzal, I will like to make a wedding booking on the 5th
September 2009. I will like to know if you can handle the wedding
arrangements/planning for the couple.

The details of the wedding are as follows:
Names of couples:William Walsh and Linda Gardener

Religion: Christians ( Catholics)
Nationality : British
Date of the wedding: 5th of September, 2009
Type of wedding: Social
Number of Invited Guests: Maximum of 30 persons.
venue of the wedding: Catholic Church
reception Venue: Suggested by you
Time of wedding: Suggested by you
You will provide: Videographer and photographer if convenient for you.
Every other necessary details will be forwarded to you as soon as they
are available. Please Let me know the deposit to be paid so as to have
you booked for that, details will be forwarded to you as soon as they
are available.

Please Let me know the deposit to be paid so as to have you booked for that day.
Mode of payment: via credit card.
Your swift response shall be well appreciated.

Warm regards,
Mr. Martin Vrzal
40 Murrayfield Avenue ,
Edinburgh , EH12 6 AY, Scotland

Convert an atheist… and win!

July 4, 2009

This is bizarre. A Turkish reality TV show will be pitting a Greek Orthodox priest, a rabbi, an imam and a Buddhist monk to see who can convert the most atheists to their respective religions.

There’s no word about what will happen if the religious guys lose their faith.

Thanks, boingboing!

Repaying a curse

July 4, 2009
tags: ,

I was at a meeting of various Christians this week and one of the guys made an interesting comment. It turns out, he said, that the main difference between the Vietnam War and the wars that had gone on before it was that American (and presumably Australian) troops were cursed by Buddhist monks when they landed. The effect was, apparently, to cause a much higher than expected incidence of mental illness after the war in our veterans.

Now I really don’t go in for the whole idea of monks actually being able to inflict some sort of spiritual disturbance on our troops by simply praying at them, or whatever their technique was. I’ve been scratching my head about this one for a few days now, wondering what to make of it. The Bible says a bit about curses, but trying to figure out what it means in the 21st Century is something of a puzzle.

I also realise that what soldiers in Vietnam went through (and still go through) isn’t a trivial matter. I think the sort of comment my friend made was intended well, but somehow trivialises what many of my father’s generation have to endure.

It occurred to me today, though, that the Bible has a few very clear things to say about curses. Here’s the clearest:

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

(Luke 6:27-28, NRSV)

Here’s another one like it:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

(Romans 12:14 NRSV)

I’m going to guess that the troops being cursed didn’t respond with blessing. Did any of the chaplains pray blessings back at the Buddhist monks? Were the soldiers instructed to lay down their weapons and wish their enemies all the best?

I’d love to hear that I’m wrong about this, but somehow, I don’t think so.

How do we deal with adherents of other religions?

May 31, 2009

Adam Walker-Cleaveland of pomomusings has been running a series of posts called ‘Plurality 2.0.’ Each post has been contrinuted by a guest author. I’ll admit that I haven’t really followed the series, but I was struck by a comment made by the most recent contributor, Brian McLaren:

Of course there’s a place and time for speculating on the fate of people of various religions and no religion. (Where and when – and for how long – is another question in itself.) But my sense, after spending quite a few years on the path of following Jesus, is that my primary duty is to look in the mirror and focus, not on the failures or deficits of “the other,” but on my own. My identity as a disciple prompts me to ask what it would mean for me to love my neighbor of another religion as myself, to do for my neighbor of another religion as I would have her do for me, to be willing to sacrifice and suffer (and even die) on her behalf, to take the Christ-like posture of a servant toward my neighbors of other religions – washing their feet, showing them true respect, considering them as better than myself and not looking out for my own interests only, but also theirs.

And this line of thinking raises still more questions: would I want my neighbor of another religion to be preoccupied with my status as an outsider – as “other”? Would I want him constantly seeing me either as a potential convert or as a threat and competitor in the religious market? Would I be happy for her to minimize any common ground we might share and instead, repeatedly and habitually maximize our differences? If my answer to these questions is no, then how can I justify doing these things to my neighbor?

Hmm. When Jesus told us to treat others the way we want to be treated, I think he might have meant it.

The Burial of Jesus—a review

May 19, 2009

Some time ago I received a review copy of James F. McGrath’s book The Burial of Jesus. Professor McGrath is associate professor of religion at Butler University, specialising in history and biblical studies.

The book sets out to look at the burial and resurrection of Jesus using the standard toolkit of the modern historian. It begins by exploring the relationship between objective historical study and faith. These are often seen to be in tension with one another, because one relies on evidence and the other is often invoked without or even in spite of evidence. However, this is a misunderstanding of the role of faith, which is more to do with trusting the object of faith (i.e. God) rather than merely accepting a set of propositions with little more proof than wishful thinking.

The second chapter looks at how historians go about their business and some of the criteria they have for judging their sources. In keeping with the object of the book it focuses on the four canonical gospels. There is a good overview of the ‘synoptic problem’ (which refers to the relationships between the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the reasons why most scholars today subscribe to the two source theory. The chapter finishes with a discussion of how historians judge the reliability of the contents of the gospels.

The third chapter uses the same techniques to ascertain what we can know about the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. McGrath marshals all the resources at his disposal here—our knowledge of Jewish law at the time of Jesus, first century historians, extra-biblical texts and of course, the biblical texts themselves. It’s important to note this isn’t apologetics—McGrath isn’t trying to arrive at a particular destination. He plays all the pieces of evidence against each other, finding points of agreement and disagreement. This is an important point—as much as many Christians would like to think otherwise, there are fundamental differences between the biblical accounts of the Easter story. Sifting through the evidence McGrath continually asks, ‘what is the most likely explanation for all of the evidence before us?’

The crucifixion and burial of Jesus are all accessible through the normal historical means. It seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus was crucified, his body was disposed of quickly, but disappeared soon after. However, the question of what what happened to the body of Jesus is far more complicated for the historian.

And thus the fourth chapter, which deals with the accounts of the resurrection appearances. Because of the highly unusual nature of a resurrection an historian is unlikely to consider it the ‘most likely’ explanation for the events recorded. Again, McGrath looks at all of the biblical evidence and comes to the conclusion he believes is most consistent with what he finds. (Don’t worry, folks! I won’t give any spoilers. If you want to know what McGrath’s conclusion is, you’ll have to read the book!)

The final chapter is somewhat more theological, asking what sort (if any) of resurrection is required by the church today. More broadly, he looks at some of the consequences of our view (stated and unstated) of eschatology. He also revisits his earlier material on the nature of faith, and how it has more to do with trust in a person than certainty about a doctrine.

I found this book quite invigorating. I’m not sure I agree with some of the conclusions. I’m also a bit concerned McGrath might have made assumptions in places that weren’t warranted, or at least need to be challenged. Overall, though, I would recommend this book to anyone who is serious about studying Christianity rationally. It would make a good primer for first year theology students who are trying to ‘unlearn’ a lot of the more dogmatic approaches to Christianity they may have picked up elsewhere.

A fuller gospel

May 19, 2009

Scot McKnight has just started a series of posts on ‘the Kingdom Gospel.’ In the first of the series we read

Many readers of the Bible read the whole Bible through the lens of the gospel they believe and this is what that gospel looks like:

  • God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
  • But you have a sin problem that separates you from God.
  • The good news is that Jesus came to die for your sins.
  • If you accept Jesus’ death, you can be reconnected to God.
  • Those who are reconnected to God will live in heaven with God.

Every line of that statement is more or less true. It is the sequencing of those lines, the “story” of that gospel if you will, that concerns me and that turns Jesus’ message of the kingdom into a blue parakeet. And it is not only the sequencing, it is the omitting of major themes in the Bible that concerns me. What most shocks the one who reads the Bible as Story, where the focus is overwhelmingly on God forming a covenant community, is that this outline of the gospel above does two things: it eliminates community and it turns the entire gospel into a “me and God” or “God and me” gospel. Who needs a church if this is the gospel? (Answer: no one.) What becomes of the church for this gospel? (Answer: an organization for those who want to do that sort of thing.) While every line in this gospel is more or less true, what concerns many of us today is that this gospel makes the church unimportant.

(Note: Scot’s use of the term ‘blue parakeet’ is explained in his book ‘the Blue Parakeet’ which I blogged about last year. It refers to a person or idea that doesn’t fit into the generally accepted way of thinking, and is therefore assimilated or rejected rather than accepted.)

Once upon a time that would have been my view of the gospel, too. Scot’s series will be looking at a few of the deeper things in the gospel that we tend to either ignore or explain away because they don’t simply fit the narrow view we hold. This is much bigger picture than many of us might be used to: hang on and enjoy the ride!