Tuesday, January 31, 2017

9. Prophecies of the Antichrist

Chapter 10 gives backstory. The next chapter of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer, is called "Interlude." My reviews of the first nine chapters were:
1. In this chapter, Heiden interrupts the flow of the story to go back and give some of the German backstory. Good approach, not to begin with this material, as we might have become bored before we came to the story. But his style does ask us to live with partial glimpses that he only fills in later.

The thread of the chapter, it seems to me, is Napoleon, Hegel, Wagner, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Chamberlain.

2. Heiden argues that the single greatest event of German history was Napolean's (1769-1821) breaking of the thousand year German empire and its restructuring into its modern sub-states. "Napoleon I brought to Germany the idea of democratic Caesarism, of the conspirator who makes himself tyrant by the abuse of democracy" (213). He may defeat the Holy Roman Empire, but there is something enamoring about him. Many of the German states switch to his side.

"From France, Germany learned the secret of the new patriotism: organized freedom" (214). Napoleon does not want to rule France, Fichte (1762-1814) said. Napoleon must rule the world. And if he cannot be ruler of the world, he does not want to exist.

"Oppressed Germany admired her oppressor and almost forgave the tyrant his tyranny because of its immensity" (215). "Napoleon became the embodiment of human Titanism, a demigod who had set out to build the Tower of Babel, a hero, a model of intellect and will."

3. This was the genesis of destruction for Germany, Heiden believes, a change of direction. The idealists before Napoleon--Kant (1724-1804), Goethe (1749-1832), Schiller (1759-1805), Fichte--were great believers in liberty and the equality of all human beings. They believed in equality by virtue of education. This liberal, optimistic view of humanity would steer in a somewhat darker direction after Napoleon.

4. So Hegel (1770-1831) still sees history moving in a clear direction, but we probably cannot say that it is necessarily a better one. Hegel has witnessed Napoleon riding into Jena. When he sees Napoleon, "he felt as though he had seen the 'world spirit on horseback'" (213). What is the world spirit? It is the direction in which history is headed. For Hegel, history is the unfolding of an evolving world spirit, which manifests itself supremely in the state.

The French Revolution had proclaimed the rights of humanity. But this right channeled itself in Germany into the right of man to have his own nationality. Germans have a right to have a German nation. Germany had reached a point of pride in its intellectual history. It reached back into the Norse legends to find its own destiny.

"In 1848, the Nationalist Movement of the German intellectuals flared into revolution. The best brains in the land assembled in Saint Paul's Church in Frankfort on the Main, to found a German Reich and give it a democratic constitution; a minority demanded a republic. The princes were helpless, for a time even intimidated by bloody uprisings in Berlin, Vienna, and other cities; reactionary ministers were driven from the country; the people seemed victorious" (219).

5. Richard Wagner (1813-83) road the wave of these times. In May of 1849, as the revolution was playing out, he climbed on the steeple of the Church of the Cross in Dresden, dropping notes about troop movements to those below. The Prussians were marching on the city to quell the rebellion against authority. That morning, he had snuck into the Prussian camp and passed out leaflets to the soon to be advancing soldiers, reminding them that they were all Saxons and shouldn't be fighting against each other.

When heavy shots were made toward him, he refused to get down, saying, "I am immortal!" (209). His operas would express the pure human longing for power despite chaos and disaster, singing of the movement forward of this longing without fear of bullets. "His best, or at least his most popular, music transforms the curse of power into a glamorous song; and destruction--the inevitable fate of unbridled power--resounds in it with tragic beauty. Love of overwhelming disaster--that is his haunting leitmotiv" (210).

Wagner was also extremely vocal in his anti-Semitism.

Hitler would visit the wife of the late Wagner in 1923 in Bayreuth, Bavaria. Wagner's ailing son-in-law was there, of whom we will soon speak, an Englishman named Houston Stewart Chamberlain.

6. Enter Karl Marx (1818-83). "Ever since Hegel, the entire West had been permeated by a belief in the necessary and meaningful course of history" (220). History has a trajectory. History has a destiny.

Marx turned Hegel upside down and made that destiny an economic destiny. "Economics becomes destiny" (220). After the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, the forces of "Bolshevikism" that wanted to play themselves out in Europe were the major source of fear. Fear is a powerful tool in the hands of those who want to seize power or manipulate the people. It often is more self-destructive than the supposed threat from which it means to protect.

The fear of the out of control common person brought resistance to democracy among some German intellectuals. Heinrich Heine, who had been zealous for democracy and socialism in his youth, turned on these ideals: "In their mad intoxication for equality, they would destroy everything that is beautiful and noble on earth and unleash their iconoclastic rage on art and science... The kings vanish, and with them the last poets... The barren work-a-day sentiment of the modern Puritans will spread over all Europe like a gray dusk, foreshadowing rigid winter" (221).

This is the inheritance of both the communist and the fascist alike. They both bequeath to the people a world without beauty or truth for its own sake.

7. Germany turns dark. Hegel may have set the stage for inevitable trajectories, but his contemporary, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) would sent the tone of that trajectory. For him, the center of all things is blind will, the desire, the urge. For Hegel, the movement toward world spirit was rational, a thing of the mind. For Schopenhauer, human urges and desire, human will "lay at the base of all happenings in nature, and since it could never achieve fulfillment, its existence was suffering without end" (222). "Every human life as a whole shows the qualities of a tragedy, and we see that life, in general, consists only of hopes gone astray, thwarted plans, and errors recognized too late." The great acts of history are just an accumulation of crimes and follies (223).

He was ignored during his life, but "over the succeeding generation his philosophy of death swept like a tidal wave.

8. This late eighteenth century Germany was the time of many of Wagner's operas. Wagner "took a polemical, partisan stand on all controversial issues of his time" (225). His theme is "a great epic about the decline and death of nobility in this world." "The exalted values of an earlier day perish in the rising flood of mediocrity."

This late 1800s context was a time of "constant readiness for a new war" (227). The curse of this generation was that it was a "war civilization." It is during this time that the Prussian state rises, the second German reich, so to speak. In 1866, the Prussian part of Germany waged a victorious war against the other part of Germany and called it unification (226). In 1871, the King of Prussia was crowned German Emperor.

This was the time of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). In his early days, he wrote of the Superman who lived in a realm "beyond good and evil." This leader, this Antichrist, was not distracted by those who said, "you shouldn't do this or that." For Nietzsche, Christianity was a slave morality, a philosophy invented by the weak to try to get the strong not to oppress them. But the Ubermensch invented the right and wrong that the herd of other intellectuals followed.

Ironically, Nietzsche in his later life cursed the nationalism of the Prussian reich, as well as race hatred. His work was unfortunately edited after his death to foster the kind of environment from which Hitler rose.

9. The end of the chapter focuses on Houston Chamberlain (1855-1927). He was born an Englishman, spent the first twenty-five years of his life in France, and ended his life a German. He married the daughter of Wagner, and his thinking was thoroughly Wagnerian.

His chief contribution was a book called The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, which made him world famous. King Wilhelm II of Prussia wrote, "It was God who sent your book to the German people and you personally to me" (233).

While Wagner believed that the downward course of the world could not be stopped, he believed it could be halted. The German people, because of her cultural genius, could experience a temporary regeneration. Chamberlain, coming to Germany from elsewhere, was more optimistic that a "higher race could and must be bred" (234).

For Chamberlain, race was not by blood. Humankind created race. The kinship of this kind of race was a matter of affinity and culture. "The genesis of extraordinary races is invariably preceded by a blood mixture" (235). In other words, people of different blood come together to create a master race. So for him, the Aryan race was something to be created: 1) discover good "material," 2) nature will select the fittest, 3) mix these superior individuals together, 4) breed within that group.

Chamberlain had no room for the weak. This artificial selection must not be sentimental ("slave morality"). He writes, "The exposure of sickly children was one of the most beneficent laws of the Greeks, Romans, and Teutons" (2235).

Obviously any true democracy was thus a weakness because it allowed the illegitimate to vote and have voice. Public opinion, for him, was made by idiots or malicious traitors.

10. Chamberlain was convinced that the German people were the best ones to engineer this Aryan race. Germany was best gifted to organize all political life by scientific principles. It was gifted at practical systematization at the "planned co-ordination of all the parts of every productive unit." World domination cannot come through mere power. It needs to be a new type of power, resting on intellectual and moral foundations, "a scientific policy of genius" (241).

Chamberlain, weak himself now in 1923, had almost given up hope for such a state. But his meeting with the young Hitler renewed his hope. Democracy had come too late to Germany. The treaty at the end of World War I did not seize the opportunity to set up a world democracy. As we have seen, disaffected soldiers from the war became hit squads and an underground army. Disillusionment and despair gave birth to moral chaos.

"Democracy did not act in its hour; and so the Antichrist acted" (245).

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Paul 6

From last week...
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Saul even told them where Stephen and some others would meet in the morning on the first day of the week to celebrate the rising of this Jesus from the dead. The rough group of men stayed up all night, drinking more and more, getting more and more agitated. Then just before dawn, they headed out to the Mount of Olives and stoned Stephen to death while the others scattered. Saul watched their cloaks while the whole thing went down.

The Sanhedrin was pleased. It advanced Saul politically. Now the Sanhedrin knew they had someone they could trust to help stop this Jesus movement. They had chastised the Aramaic speaking believers, who met regularly at the temple. But it was hard to get at them because they had a lot of support and were always out in plain view. They also were fairly peaceful. Their emerging leader, James, actually preached faithfulness to the Law, and a number of Pharisees had even joined the movement.

The story was different with the Greek-speaking followers like Stephen. They were much more vocal and seditious. But soon Saul had so disrupted the Greek-speaking Jews that a good many of them left Jerusalem. For a few weeks, the Sanhedrin thought their problem was solved--until they found out that these Jesus followers were simply preaching around the Judean--even the Samaritan countryside.

For over a year Saul went around Judea, mostly as a spy, watching these followers of the Way. He would report back what they were teaching, and how many converts they made to their cause. He especially tried to follow a Hellenist named Philip, but he seemed to disappear every time Saul got close. In all this time Saul rarely saw his wife. All he could think about was his own advancement.

What he didn't realize is that the message of these believers was sinking into his subconscious. This Jesus had preached that everyone could be part of the coming kingdom. Look at how many people were joining this movement. He had enough of Gamaliel in his head to wonder if it could be of God. Was he really on the right side?

No! It couldn't be. He was a law-keeper. God commanded that all Jews keep the Law. He had spent his whole life pursuing the Law. He had kept it blamelessly. He didn't know anyone in his family or close friends who kept the Law as well as he did. He was zealous for the law like a Maccabee!

He dove into his work even harder. Three years after the beginning of the Jesus movement, in the nineteenth year of the reign of Claudius, he thought he had another break. He asked the Sanhedrin to send him to Damascus, in the Roman province of Syria, to investigate some Jesus followers from the Essene movement. He had heard they were forming an army of some sort, with one of Jesus' original followers leading them, a man named Simon.

The Sanhedrin was able to get a letter from Pontius Pilate, then in his seventh year as governor. Saul would take it to Flaccus, then the governor of Syria. This letter would allow Saul to arrest any seditious followers of the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem for examination...

Bulgaria versus Hitler

1. Quite a coincidence. National Holocaust Day on Friday. Refugee ban the same day. Bulgaria and the Holocaust in the reading today.

This week we read chapter three of The Lemon Tree for the Monday reading group. It is the true story of a Jewish and Palestinian family whose lives intersected in a house in al-Ramla in Israel. The title of the book refers to a lemon tree in a yard there, planted by the Palestinian family and then later in the yard of the Jewish family. It's complicated.

2. Bulgarian Jews were spared the Treblinka death camp because of what Sandy Tolan calls, "the fragility of goodness" (43). Individuals who were part of the fascist regime had these fragile moments of goodness where they leaked out the deportation plans. The Orthodox bishop of Bulgaria did not just go along with the deportation like the Catholic Church of Germany. Non-Jews maneuvered their way to the capital of Sofia to see complicit officials who nevertheless could see the inhumanity of what was coming.

Under pressure and seeing the winds change in Russia, the king and parliament procrastinated the deportation. They just expelled Jews from the capital. They had already managed to get some leeway with Hitler by uncomfortably joining the Axis powers. They cooperated in the killing of the Jews in Macedonia and Thrace, few if any survived. But the thin line of humanity held in Bulgaria.

Otherwise the Jewish family who came to occupy that house in al-Ramla would never have lived to see Israel.

3. There were a couple historical matters in the chapter that I found striking:
  • The Bulgarian Jews largely descended from Jews expelled from Spain when the Christians expelled them in 1492. The Ottoman Turks at that time welcomed them: "They say that Ferdinand of Spain is a wise man, but he is a fool. He takes his treasure and sends them to me" (29). So often have those nations willing to take in refugees gained some of their most loyal citizens, who have then enriched those countries with their talents.
  • Bulgaria had passed a "Law for the Defense of the Nation," a completely cooked up law that put Jews in their place in the name of protecting the true citizens of Bulgaria. If you ever see a law like this coming down the pike in America, remember your history. It would take the form of, "We need to protect ourselves from these x, y, or z. Therefore, we are going to make them register and we're going to watch these dangerous people, restrict these people."
Perhaps I will back-blog the first two chapters of the book.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Misuse of Romans 13

1. I've heard some misuses of Romans 13:1-7 in the past, and I've recently been hearing some that probably haven't seriously been used for a long time. The main two misuses I've heard recently are:
  • The use of Romans 13 to argue that almost the sole function of government is to punish criminals and restrain evildoers. (often used to argue that government shouldn't be involved with helping those in material need)
  • The rise again of a kind of "divine right" thinking. You can't disobey the king because God has installed him and given him absolute authority no matter what he does. This was really popular (among kings at least) in the 1600s. (recently revived to argue that Christians need to shut up and go along with whatever the new president might want to do)
2. So here's a translation of Romans 13:1-7:
Let every person submit themselves to higher authorities, for there isn't authority except by God and the ones that exist have been ordered by God. Thus those who oppose authority resist the command of God and those who resist will receive judgment on themselves.

For rulers are not a fear to the good deed, but to the bad deed. Do you want not to fear authority? [Then] do the good, and you will have praise from it, for it is a servant of God for you, for the good. Fear if you do the bad, for not without cause does it bear the sword, for it is a punishing servant of God leading to wrath on the one doing the evil.

Therefore, it is necessary to submit yourselves not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.

For this reason also pay taxes, for they are servants of God, attending to this very [task]. Pay your debts to them: tax to whom tax is due, custom to whom custom is due, fear to whom fear is due, honor to whom honor is due.
 3. With regard to the first misuse at the top, we can quickly dismiss the "government can only be involved in punishing criminals" view out of hand. [1] Romans 13 is not an exhaustive statement on the good those in authority can do. The Old Testament celebrates kings who take care of the needy among the people (e.g., Ps. 72) and condemns the nations who let the plight of the poor and weak go unaddressed (Ps. 82).

Romans 13 tells us one of the good functions of the highest authorities, maybe even the primary one at the time God inspired Paul to write Romans. It does not tell us all of the good that those in authority can do. And it does not prohibit governments from doing other things that are good. Silence does not imply a prohibition, or, as Wilbur Williams always says, "Absence of presence is not presence of absence."

So we will have to slog out the actual merits and detriments of specific kinds of governmental involvement in those sort of things. We can't dismiss the possibility with a proof-text. [2] We'll have to make actual arguments using our knowledge of history, political science, sociology, etc, steering those arguments on the basis of our values and theology.

4. I'm a little taken aback to hear the old "divine right" argument resurrected--submit entirely to the king because God has chosen him. I thought it only existed among some really radical hyper-Calvinist sects and only with immense inconsistency there. [3]

What I mean by inconsistency is this. I sure didn't hear a single soul saying such things when Obama was president. And I would have soundly disagreed with this thinking then too. Are we then to say that the Founding Fathers were wrong to rebel against King George?

5. As a side-note, I have actually wrestled with the question of whether the Revolutionary War was wrong on the basis of passages (note the plurality) like Romans 13. As a result, I have played out the following scenario, which I think would be biblically allowable:
  • 1) You speak truth to power--"This is inappropriate. This is wrong!" 
  • 2) The king rejects your protests, commands you to submit or face the consequences.
  • 3) You do not comply because the king is asking you to do something wrong.
  • 4) The king moves against you with force.
  • 5) You defend yourself.
Now I doubt this scenario gets all the Founding Fathers off the hook, but it might do for some. But that's a different question.

6. Now to the punch. Here are three key reasons why the divine right interpretation doesn't work:
  • 1. It takes a statement that was never meant as absolute and makes it into a philosophical proposition.
  • 2. It does not take into account the context for which God inspired Paul to write Romans.
  • 3. It is "single verse" theology, while we have to take the whole Bible into account when we are trying to appropriate a specific passage for today.
7. Most biblical instruction was written on the level of "most cases," not on the level of "there are never any exceptions to this statement in any time or place." For example, in Acts 4:19, Peter pretty much flat out tells the Sanhedrin that he's going to obey God and disobey them. Obviously, there is a time not to submit to those in authority over you. The instruction was never given on an absolute level.

8. It was common in earlier centuries to view Romans as a "compendium of Christian theology." [4] However, we now understand that Romans was not first written to give us a theology textbook. It was written 1) for Paul to introduce himself to the Romans, 2) for him to give his side of the story in terms of the bad-mouthing of his opponents, 3) for him possibly to gather support for a mission into Spain, and 4) possibly for him to address some issues he knew were in play within the Roman church itself.

So why did God inspire Paul to write Romans 13:1-7 to the Romans? We cannot fully answer this question, because we do not know all the details. This is one of the reasons why you should be careful about jumping from a single passage to today. Not only is there the possibility we have misinterpreted it, but there is also the fact that we always lack full knowledge of the context.

I personally am sympathetic to the idea that there is at least a "look good in front of the Romans" element to this passage. The Christian message was a deeply politically subversive one. After all, Paul believed that the real king, Jesus, was soon going to return and fry kings like Nero. It was good for a statement like this one to be read publicly in the churches at Rome. They didn't want another incident like the conflict of 49, when Claudius kicked the Jewish Christians from the city.

I am not in any way suggesting that this passage is not true--for me it is the starting point for how we relate to those in authority over us. We are to respect those in positions of authority and we should have a bias toward choosing to submit to them even when they are unjust or incompetent. Nevertheless, context colors the passage and how we might best appropriate it.

Paul was certainly under no misgivings about how unjust the Roman government actually was. After all, how many times had they beaten him with rods? At least three times before the time he wrote 2 Corinthians 11:25. He knew their frequent injustice when he wrote here that you don't need to fear authority when you do good. You should mainly fear them when you do wrong.

Obviously that had not always been his own experience! He had been punished unjustly by authority many times.

9. Finally, we should not appropriate any passage without taking into account the whole counsel of God. There are many models for how to engage political authorities in the Bible. Here are some:
  • Peter says to submit to authority, even when it is unrighteous (1 Peter 2-3), written during a time when God wanted accommodation and submission.
  • Peter tells authority he is not going to submit to them, because God's command conflicts with theirs (Acts 4:19).
  • Stephen speaks truth to power, implying that they are murderers (Acts 7:52). He is stoned to death.
  • Paul regrets (does he seriously not know which person is the high priest???) calling the high priest a "whitewashed wall" (Acts 23:3) because it is disrespectful to authority.
  • Moses speaks truth to power (Pharaoh) in Egypt.
  • Samuel secretly anoints David as king even though Saul is still king, a deeply seditious act.
  • David does not kill Saul when he has the chance, because Saul is God's anointed.
  • Ehud assasinates King Eglon (Judg. 3). Samson kills a mess of Philistines.
  • Elisha puts in motion a coup in which Jehu will take over the kingdom from King Ahab (2 Kings 9).
Wisdom is knowing which model is God's will for the times.

Of course there is also the question of Old Testament-New Testament. Would God really have any Christian engage in a coup today, like Jehu did? He certainly didn't go about it the right way, based on Hosea 1:4. What about Bonhoeffer's support of the plot to kill Hitler? [5] Was he wrong?

10. What time is it? That wasn't my purpose in this post. My purpose was to debunk the misuse of Romans 13 to say that governments aren't supposed to be involved in helping people or that we should just shut up and submit to whoever the "king" might happen to be.

Of course that last one wouldn't work in America anyway, because a President is not a king. Some would say that we are a government "of the people, by the people, for the people." And the power of a president is supposed to be balanced between the three branches of government. In that sense, the Constitution is more of a king than a president anyway.

[1] I wrote on this a few years ago here.

[2] A "proof-text" is when you take a single verse or passage, read it out of context, and then think that you have settled some issue without consulting the rest of Scripture.

[3] This is entirely a Calvinist, determinist argument. Wesleyan-Arminians have never believed anything like this because we believe that God grants us a good deal of freedom of will. Wesley did not think the American Methodists should revolt against the king, but his argument was not that one must always submit to the king because God has predestined everything he commands.

[4] Melanchthon in the 1500s.

[5] Some have recently denied that he did. I suspect this is wishful thinking.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

7.1 Solving Complex Circuits

You've all been waiting for Module 7 of the Navy Basic Electricity and Electronics series, especially since we finished Module 6 back in 2016. Module 7 is Combination Circuits and Voltage Dividers. The first section is "Solving Complex Circuits."

1. Complex circuits are circuits that are not entirely series or parallel, but some combination of the two. So they can also be called "combination" circuits or "series-parallel" circuits. First we review the rules for each kind of circuit.

Rules for Series Circuits
  • Current is the same throughout the circuit.
  • Voltage is additive (Kirchhoff's voltage law)--add up the voltage across each element to get the total.
  • Resistance is additive--add up the individual resistances to find the total.
  • Power is additive--add up the power used by each element to find the total
Rules for Parallel Circuits
  • Voltage is the same in every branch of the circuit.
  • Current is additive (Kirchhoff's current law)--add up the currents in each branch to get the total.
  • Total resistance is more complicated. The total resistance is always less than the smallest resistance. If the branches have equal resistances, the total will be a single resistance divided by the number of branches. If there only two branches, you can multiply the two resistances and divide by their sum. For all situations, you can add up the reciprocals of each branch resistance and then take the reciprocal of that.
  • Power is additive--add up the power in each branch to find the total.
2. You can guess that combination circuits simply play out the rules above in predictable ways. So, each branch of the overall circuit is its own little series circuit of sorts. Meanwhile, you could reduce all the branches of the circuit to what an equivalent, single element would look like in its place and suddenly you have an overall series circuit.

So you can redraw complex circuits in ways that reduce them to what equivalent, simple circuits might look like.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Monday Paul 5

From last week
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They were making such head way in the Synagogue of the Freedmen that the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, sent Saul to serve as a spy of sorts, to see if he could subvert the movement.

Everything about them made him seethe inside. While he was obsessed with getting more and more Jews to follow the Law the "right" way, his way, these Hellenists were preaching that the Messiah wanted to include all Jews in the kingdom, including those who were unclean! They told stories about Jesus eating with toll collectors and associating with prostitutes.

It infuriated Saul. He could hardly listen to it. Of course he missed the fact that Jesus did not condone prostitution or cheating people. All Saul could hear is that Jesus ate with those people.

Saul was not just any Pharisee. He had cast in his lot with the School of Shammai. Sure, he had sat at the feet of Gamaliel and the School of Hillel during his early training as a Pharisee. But in the end the more militant School of Shammai was much more to his liking. The Hillelites believed in waiting around and letting God take care of things. The Shammaites believed in working alongside God by taking action. God would support a righteous cause!

There was one of these Jesus-followers in the Synagogue of the Freedman that really got under his skin. His name was Stephen. It seemed like he got bolder and bolder each Sabbath. He condemned the Jerusalem leadership in stronger and stronger terms for their part in the death of the Messiah. "They thought they had beat God. But God raised Jesus from the dead and installed him as Lord at his right hand. He will come back soon and destroy these hypocrites," he said.

Obviously the Sandhedrin was infuriated and alarmed by such rhetoric. Meanwhile, Saul was engaged in a campaign of whispers. "Blasphemers are to be stoned," he would suggest. "Don't you remember the son of the Egyptian in Leviticus, whom God commanded Israel to stone?"

Finally, after one Sabbath, one when Stephen was particularly critical of the temple leadership, several leaders in the Sanhedrin gave a secret go ahead for Saul to incite a crowd of undesirables against Stephen. Stephen had been saying things like, "Don't trust in this temple. God destroyed it once before and he could let it get destroyed again. The Sadducees and Pharisees are stiff-necked hypocrites, whom God has rejected. They preach the Law but do not follow it!"

So Paul went to meet some of the rougher characters of the Synagogue of the Freedman. He knew where they met to eat and drink after the sun went down at the Sabbath's end. "Can you believe what that Stephen said this morning? It's blasphemy against the temple, I tell you. Reminds me of the sons of Korah, how they tried to usurp the authority of Moses and Aaron. And look what happened to them! I can tell you, the Sanhedrin would not do anything if this guy just happened to get stoned to death."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Seminary PL34: Project Management

This is the third post on church administration in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the thirty-fourth post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post gave a number of tips on time management as a leader, manager, or administrator. This post addresses the question of project management.
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1. Project management is the orchestration of a project toward its successful completion in a certain amount of time. It thus involves 1) a certain set of outcomes, 2) an ordered timeline to achieve the steps leading to these outcomes, and 3) a mechanism to ensure this timeline is kept.

(1) Project Generation
Obviously the reason a need for project management would arise is because you have a project. In other words, we begin this entry with the assumption that someone or some group with the authority to do so has set a goal. It could be an individual--perhaps I as an individual want to write a book. It could be a leader--we want to have a fifty year anniversary gathering. It could be a department--we want to launch a new degree or have a quadrennial event.

(2) Initial Approval
2. Let us go ahead and say that the first step is approval. This may be as simple as "I'm committing as an individual to do this project." In other cases, approval may be more involved. If it is a group project that you do not have the authority to initiate, then you will surely need the approval of the other members of the group. [1]

In most organizations, there will be a more formal approval process for major projects. It could be that you only need the approval of your department. Having an affirming vote is often helpful even when it is not technically needed.

Although be wise. Do not cause yourself unnecessary trouble. An easy though unnecessary unanimous vote adds power to your project. An unnecessary vote that will detract or even derail a needed project is another thing.

I was in a church board meeting where a vote was taken on a project that may or may not have needed a vote, but it was a slightly controversial project and the pastor on the spur of the moment asked if we thought it would be helpful to take a vote. The on the spot vote was unanimous (although I suspect one or two might have gone along with hesitation) and now the pastor had a real tool whenever further questions might be asked by members of the congregation: "This was unanimously passed by the board."

On the other hand, a conflict laden vote, when such a vote is not necessary, is a judgment call. Let's say you have a small minority of "grumblers" whom you know are going to make a stink about a project even though the majority are on board and their approval is not technically needed. Will giving detractors a platform to grumble create unnecessary negative energy toward the project? At some point, it's better to move forward and let them grumble in a corner rather than give them a forum to derail a project with broad support when formal approval is not needed.

(3) Formal Proposal
3. After you have achieved the necessary approvals, the next step is often putting together an official proposal. In many cases, a good deal of preliminary or hypothetical planning will have been necessary as part of the approval process. Who are the stakeholders who need to be consulted? What resources are necessary to achieve the project? A pro forma is a financial prospectus that determines whether a new venture is financially sustainable, often for the next three to five years.

Let's say your church currently does not have any discipleship program of any kind. No Sunday School, no Sunday night services, no small groups. So let's say you have a burden to start some. At some point you will want buy in from your church board and congregation. If you know you are going to get green lights readily, it's best to let them know you are thinking about, say, introducing small groups at the front end. Generate enthusiasm and anticipation.

On the other hand, if you are going to face opposition--or if you know that the wrong people will try to hijack or dominate the planning or process--you may want to have a proposal more developed before you begin talking about it. For example, you may want to have a task force group lined up with people you know are more likely to generate the best ideas before you open the door for just anyone to volunteer. A task force is a somewhat ad hoc group (that is, not a formal group in your organizational chart or structure) created to address some task.

4. So let's say your project is to create a series of small groups for the discipleship of your congregation. Let's say you have the needed approvals to put a proposal together. Now you need to plan enough to get the proposal approved.

What people need to be involved to come up with the best plan? Some people may have to be involved because of the positions they have in the church. Ideally, you want the best idea generators. Unfortunately, sometimes they are not the people with the official positions. If for some reason they cannot be in the planning room, you will want to meet with them separately to pick their brains so that you can bring them to the room, so to speak.

What are the components of the project? What are its dimensions and its elements? What are the different ways to divide up the project? For small groups, there may be "affinity groups" that serve as a basis for dividing up the congregation into groups. Sometimes these are a matter of age. So small children obviously will not do well in the same groups as older people or teenagers.

When will these small groups meet? All throughout the week at different times? All on the same day or night? You will probably want to begin the planning with a brainstorming session where all ideas are welcome. You might pass out sheets of paper and markers for everyone to put down every idea that comes into their minds and then tape them all to the wall. Then you group and organize them into categories.

A detailed proposal might include:
  • a clear statement of the project, including what outcomes the project hopes to achieve
  • what resources are necessary to achieve those outcomes, including 
  • what people are necessary and 
  • a financial pro forma of some sort, with 
  • the impact on other programs or projects (i.e., what is the "opportunity cost," what opportunities you will have to pass up on because you are taking this one)
  • a general timeline for how the project will unfold and reach its goal, and 
  • how you will measure success or the achievement of the outcomes ("assessment").
(4) Planning
5. So let's say you have a more formal proposal approved, if it is necessary. If so, you may already be well on your way in the planning of the project. For example, you may know what people, materials, and finances you will need and you may have a general timeline. You thus have at least a general sense of the process.

You need to know enough at the start to know that you can reach the goal or at least that you have a reasonable chance of reaching the goal. When visiting a certain foreign country once I was amazed at the number of half built buildings in a certain city. Someone had enough money to start building but apparently ran out of funds mid-stream. The hope apparently was, some day, to have enough more funds to finish it.

In general, you don't want half built buildings. You need to count the cost and have a good sense of the resources needed before you start a project. At the very least, you need to be reasonably sure that you will be able to build the landing gear by the time the plane needs to land!

6. At this point a PERT chart is handy. This is basically a much more detailed version of the timeline you created as part of the proposal stage. A PERT chart is a "Program Evaluation and Review Technique." It is basically a visual lay out that says, "This needs to happen before this can happen."

You can build a PERT chart either moving forward or moving backward. So for a new degree at my university:
  • It first has to pass the local school in which it is located. In my case, this means both the School of Theology and Ministry's (STM) curriculum committee and its faculty.
  • Then it has to pass two intermediate committees within the college in which my school is located: a) the curriculum committee of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and b) the assessment committee of CAS.
  • On the larger scale, it finally a) is seen by a group called the "Academic Affairs Committee" and b) has to be passed by the Faculty Senate of the whole university. [2]
This process cannot really be sped up. Most of these committees only meet once a month, so the PERT chart for unfolding a new degree is fairly rigid. One of them, the Faculty Senate, requires "two reads," a first read one month where the proposal is presented and a second read the next month when it is voted on.

Sometimes it takes more than one month for a proposal to get through one of these committees. The result is that you sometimes "count back" from the time you want to launch the program to know whether it is possible to get it through in time.

7. In a church or business (or your personal life), the schedule for accomplishing a project may be more flexible. In that case, you may want to "count back" from the project deadline and fill in the time in between accordingly. If a timeline is unreasonable at any step in the process, you will want to extend your final goal deadline.

You may also want to distinguish between an ideal schedule and critical deadlines. The ideal schedule is hopefully a comfortable and doable chain of events with some cushion built in. However, there is also a critical timeline, the one that would put your goal in jeopardy if you do not keep to it. For example, if you want to have your first service in the new building in January, then the new building has to be built by then.
(5) Process
We have inevitably talked a fair amount about process in the course of talking about approval, proposal, and planning. Some personalities are fixated on process, but more often than not there is not a single right way to do something or get to a goal, despite the more obsessive personalities among us. The goal is the goal, not the process to get there.

However, once you have agreed on a goal and an overall timeline, you will want to keep it. At this point, it is often helpful to have a project manager, someone whose sole or primary responsibility is to keep the project on schedule. This is the conductor of the symphony. It is not usually a high level leader or even manager. It is often a secretary or even a person hired temporarily until the project is finished (think wedding planner).

Since the leaders who cook up an idea usually have to lead and manage much more broadly than a single project, a project manager is someone there, if necessary, to nag or prod the key players to get their part of the project done on time. There is even special project management software to help (e.g., Microsoft Project).

This person might have a more detailed kind of PERT chart called a Gannt chart, which breaks down each step in the process into individual tasks.
Taken from Wikipedia
(6) Completion
If the project has been designed well and everyone has met their deadlines, then the project will hopefully be successfully accomplished on time. Then you can move on to the next project!

Next Week: Pastor as Leader 35: Leading Meetings

[1] See previous entries about being wise about spending your leadership capital over the opposition of others.

[2] The process is actually more cumbersome than this, as it has to go through the same basic process (minus the Senate) as a prospectus before it even becomes a formal proposal. Then it has to run through the whole system a second time before going to Senate. It's hard to imagine getting something through the whole process in less than four months. Five or six months is more likely. In the initial days of the Seminary, when we were just a start up, it could go as quickly as a) AAC with buy in from the faculty, b) Grad Counsel, c) Senate. I had some proposals approved in less than two months. :-)

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management
Church Administration

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gen Eds H9a: Greeks and the Hellenistic Age

The ninth unit of world history in this series is "Waves of Conquest." We start off with the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Greeks that were before him.

This is part of my "General Education in a Nutshell" series. The series consists of ten subjects you might study in a general education or "liberal arts" core at a university or college. The first topic in the overall series was philosophy. So far in the world history section:
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Alexander the Great
1. In the year 323BC, Alexander the Great died. He was almost 33 years old and in his short life had conquered the world all the way from Macedonia (above Greece) to the Indus River (in present day India). The world had never been connected in this configuration before, from Greece to India.

To be sure, the east had tried to stretch to Greece during the Persian wars of the early 400s BC. The Persian king Xerxes (husband of Esther in the Bible, ruled 519-466BC) tried to conquer Greece. But he failed, as we will mention below.

With the death of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic Age began, the age of the Greek. Greek became the lingua franca, the "business language" of the world. This would continue throughout the Roman period. It is no surprise that when the apostle Paul writes Rome, he writes in Greek, not Latin. In fact, the Roman poet Horace (65-27BC) once wrote, "Captured Greece took captive her ferocious conqueror." [1] Rome may have taken over Greece militarily, but Greek language and ideas filled in the gaps of Roman culture.

When he was young, Alexander's father, king Philip of Macedon, hired the great philosopher Aristotle (385-23BC) to tutor his son. Under Aristotle's influence, Alexander took "scientists" of a sort on his military conquests to investigate the kinds of life they would encounter.

The Seleucids and the Ptolemies
2. After the premature death of Alexander, his kingdom was divided among his generals. Ptolemy I took Egypt (ruled 323-282BC). The native Egyptian leadership was displaced, meaning that the upper class of Egypt from this time on were Greek-speakers. Egypt was largely in control of Palestine also until the year 201BC.

The Jews were generally on good terms with these Greek Egyptians throughout this period. There had been a Jewish settlement in Egypt, even a Jewish temple at Elephantine there from the time of the Babylonian captivity in the 500s. [2] It was likely at Alexandria in Egypt that the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, were first translated into Greek. [3] This took place around the year 250BC.

3. A second general of Alexander, Seleucid I then took the eastern part of Alexander's conquests, from Babylon and Persia in the East eventually to Anatolia in the west (ruled from 305-281BC). He founded the city of Antioch in Syria that played such a key role in the earliest church (e.g., Acts 13:1).

The Seleucids tried to take Palestine more than once from the Egyptians but did not succeed until 301BC. [4] Jerusalem was thus largely under Greek-speaking Syrian influence until the Romans took control in 63BC. In the early 200s BC, Jerusalem was highly "hellenized" or Greek-ified. It was in danger of blurring into the broader culture of the day.

It was during this time that the Maccabean crisis took place. Daniel 11 describes many of the events of the early 100s BC in allusive terms. The book known as 1 Maccabees is the best historical source of information for these events. In 167BC, the Syrians demanded that the Jews stop observing the ethnic particulars of the Law, such as circumcision. The temple was defiled with pagan sacrifices.

A three year struggle of guerrilla warfare ensued, with a family that came to be known as the Maccabees the principal actors (macabee means "hammer"). Although they did not completely throw off Syrian rule, they did secure greater independence for Israel, with their family ruling as client kings under the Syrians down until the Romans took over in 63BC.

The temple was rededicated in 164BC, with Hanukkah (or the Feast of Dedication, see John 10:22) instituted to remember this restoration. This event is essential background for understanding the climate of Israel at the time of the New Testament. When Paul speaks of zeal for the law (e.g., Rom. 10:2), an image of the Maccabees should come to mind. If it were not for this crisis, we can wonder whether any Jews would have been paying any attention to their Scriptures at all at the time of Christ.

The Peloponnesian Wars
4. In Greece, the century leading up to the conquests of Alexander was one in which power shifted several times. The 300s BC began with Sparta in control. But it shifted to Thebes and eventually to Macedon under Alexander the Great's father, Philip of Macedon.

The late 400s BC had seen several decades of war between Athens and Sparta. Athens had been in control of most of Greece in the 400s, but it had been overly zealous in its thirst for control. This led to an intermittent war between Athens and Sparta from 431-404BC, from which the Spartans emerged victorious. [5] This briefly ended the democracy for which Athens is so well known. It also ended the Golden Age of Greece.

5. Nevertheless, it was during the 300s that Greek philosophy was at its high point. Socrates was commanded to commit suicide by drinking hemlock in 399BC. In the decades that followed, Plato would set up his Academy in Athens (in 387BC). After his death, Aristotle would set up his own school, the Lyceum, there (in 335BC).

After these two, the greatest philosophers of Greek history, the 200s would see several more philosophical schools founded. Zeno founded the Stoics around 300. They were known for the "stoa" where they met. Epicurus started his movement in a garden at about the same time.

The Persian Wars
6. Athens had come to dominate Greece in the early 400s because it had led "the Delian league" to defend Greece against the invasions of the Persians. [6] Sparta was also a key power in the defeat of the Persians.

In 490, the Persian king Darius (cf. Haggai 2; Zechariah 1; Ezra 6; Daniel 6) invaded Greece and confronted the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon. [7] Although they were vastly outnumbered, the Athenians were victorious.

Ten years later, Xerxes returned. In 481, a league was founded with the Spartans in control of the armies on land and the Athenians in charge of a fleet of ships by sea. Both were victorious. The Spartans (the 300) stopped the advance of Xerxes at a narrow pass at Thermopylae, while the Athenians beat the Persians in the waters around Athens in the Battle of Salamis.

The Persians were finally defeated for good in 479BC at the Battle of Plateia.

7. In the years that followed, Athens would set up the Delian League in 478 and be the dominant force in Greece during this period. They would however abuse this power leading to the Peloponnesian War and Athens' ultimate defeat by the Spartans in 404.

The dominant leader in Athens in this "Golden Age" was Pericles, who was the dominant political leader of Athens from about 461-29BC. It was he that had the Parthenon build on the Acropolis. And he fostered democracy among the males of the city to an extent that would not repeat itself until modern times. He is known for being a great orator.

It was also during this period that the great dramas of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were performed in Athens at yearly festivals.

The Trojan War
8. In the same period that Rome was shifting from kings to a republic, Athens was slowly empowering its people. It has some harsh rulers in the 600s and 500s. We get the word "draconian" from Draco, a ruler in the 600s known for his harshness. In the early 500s, Solon is known as the great lawgiver of Athens, who gave voice to the lower classes of Athenian society. They were now able to vote in the "ekkesia," the Greek assembly.

But it would not be until Cleisthenes in 510 that democracy would truly stick. It was briefly interrupted in 411 and 404, but would continue until Philip of Macedon took control of all Greece in 337BC.

9. But there are of course tales of Greece from even earlier times. The Mycenaean Age was the age of the Trojan Wars (ca. 1200BC) between Greece and Troy, which was located on the northwest tip of Anatolia (Turkey). This was Bronze Age Greece, which came to an end around 1100BC, starting a kind of "Dark Ages" in Greece history down until the time of classical Greece.

In the Mycenaean period, Greece consisted of a number of "city-states" ruled by kings. Key cities include of course Mycenae, but also Thebes, Corinth, and Athens, which was not a dominant city at this time. It is about this period that "Homer" wrote in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Of course these stories were no doubt passed on orally for generations and only written down in their current form around 700 BC. Whether the genius who finally gave them their current form was named Homer, we cannot say for certain. 

In the story of the Trojan War, the wife of Menelaus is abducted by one of the sons of the Trojan king and taken back to Troy. A war ensues for her recovery. After ten years, the Greeks pretend that they are leaving but leave a wooden horse as a gift to the goddess Athena. The Trojans take the horse into the city not knowing that there are Greeks inside. At night, the Greeks open the gate and allow the Greek army in, resulting in the destruction of the city and the victory of the Greeks. From this we get the expression, a "Trojan horse."

10. The exact causes of the collapse of Mycenaean culture is not exactly known. [8] Some refer to a "Dorian" invasion that would especially take root in the Peloponnese of southern Greece. Others refer to the conquests of the "sea peoples" that we know as the Phoenicians. They are likely the peoples we know from the Bible as the Philistines, and they would settle north Africa at Carthage. They would seem to be a Semitic people.

We know that these sea peoples used iron, and thus were technologically more advanced than the users of bronze they conquered. Some of the conflicts in the books of Samuel in the Old Testament reflect this transition.

Take-Aways
  • Guys like to go to war. Deal with it or else get defeated by the next Cro-Magnon to come along.
  • Movements often disappear on their own by natural attrition as their initial enthusiasts die off. They are often strengthened or reinvigorated by opposition.
  • People fight harder to defend their own lands and families than to conquer some distant one.
  • If you ever gain power, don't abuse it. If you treat those who are vulnerable to your power with respect (without making yourself vulnerable), you will reign long.
  • Technological advances often accompany historical victors.
Next Week: History 9b: Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians

[1] Epistles 2.1

[2] A simplistic version of Jewish history might find it odd that Jews would accept a temple somewhere other than Jerusalem. But it is not likely that the doctrine of one temple was firmly established at the time when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586BC, the time when the Diaspora or scattering of Jews was most strongly taking place. We should not think that the typical Diaspora Jew had the fully mature theology of the Old Testament as we know it. In fact, it is unlikely that the Pentateuch was in its current form at that time, let alone the other parts of the Old Testament.

[3] Called the "Septuagint" for the legend that seventy old men translated it. The earliest version of this legend is found in the pseudonymous, Letter of Aristeas. Pseudonymous means written under a fictive name.

[4] The Romans were already powerful enough in the year 175BC to keep the Seleucids from completely conquering Egypt. Egypt would quickly become Rome's main supplier of grain.

[5] The Greek historian Thucydides tells of the conflict in great detail in his Peloponnesian Wars.

[6] Herodotus, sometimes called the father of history writing, records these wars in his The Histories.

[7] The marathon gets its name from the fact that Phidippides ran the 26.2 miles from Marathon back to Athens to give news of the victory. According to the legend, he died after delivering the news.

[8] Minoan culture, on the island of Crete south of Greece, had ended around 1400, also for unknown reasons.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

8. Big Words for a Coward

The next chapter of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer, is "The Beer Hall Putsch." My reviews of the first eight chapters were:
1. On November 8-9, 1923, Hitler finally rode the wave of his rhetoric to its necessary destination. He gathered about 3000 discontent and made a bid to make Germany great again by throwing out its current leaders. He of course had given his word more than once that he would not make a “putsch,” a coup to overthrown the legitimate government. But he would later claim that a putsch was always the plan.

At first the plan was to install the Crown Prince Rupprecht as king. If not for WW1, he would already be king of Bavaria. Those in control were largely monarchists anyway. Kahr, the current leader of Bavaria, was one. Hitler knew he would have the support of the resident war hero, Ludendorff, even if they did not speak beforehand.

But on the day the Crown Prince was to speak, he was too well guarded. The plan had been to go up to him and inform him that he was being restored as king and it was expected that the others would go along, since so many favored that result anyway. Hitler’s co-conspirators—Rosenberg from Russia and Max Richter—believed that taking control of the state’s police power was the first step toward national revolution. Restoring the king was seen as a way to that end.

2. The next opportunity was a night when Kahr was giving a speech at the Bürgerbräu Keller, one of the larger beer halls in Munich. Hitler first gained the support of the Munich police. Ernst Pöhner had always protected him, and Pöhner put a sympathetic official named Frick in charge the night of November 8.

So while Kahr was giving his speech, six hundred storm troops surrounded the beer hall. The police were told not to interfere. Hitler stood on a chair and shot his gun in the air. A machine gun was set up in the entrance. He was later said to have the expression of a madman, not calm and in control of himself, perhaps when all is said and done, quite afraid.

He bluffed out lies. “The national revolution has begun.” He said that the Reichswehr army and the police were marching throughout the city under the swastika banner, which was not true. He claimed that Ludendorff was in on the plan when he had no knowledge of these events. Of course he was game once he was brought to the scene.

3. The leaders of the city played along after Ludendorff arrived. Kahr was willing to be shot before then. Others to whom Hitler had promised never to putsch went along too—Lossow and Seisser. They all played along—or perhaps more likely, for a moment they were truly tempted to go along. A great number of the three thousand in attendance were enthusiastic about returning the monarchy to Bavaria and creating a national government.

Kahr, Lossow, and Seisser were allowed to leave, but now they hear from Berlin, from their superiors. Berlin has met. The broader army of the Reichswehr will not let this putsch stand. And Lossow had let this nobody civilian, a former corporal, Hitler, point a gun at him, a general, and call him a coward.

Now comes the reversal. Hitler had left to settle some resistance at one of the barracks, which opened the space in which Kahr and Lossow left. When he returns to the Bürgerbräu, they are gone. The minutes go by. He increasingly feels like things have gone amiss.

He begins to cower. He tries to send word to the Crown Prince asking for pardon of himself at Ludendorff. The emissary can’t find a car. By the time it arrives all is over.

4. Ludendorff is no coward. They will march on the city. Rudolf Hess flees with two of the lesser ministers in a car. He drives around, threatening to shoot them at the side of the road until he learns all is lost. Then he walks across the mountain into Austria. Hermann Göring seems keen on shooting hostages. He tells the police he will bash all their heads in if they shoot on them. He intersperses them among the troops.

But Hitler dismisses them at one point. He says later that he wanted no martyrs. He seems to be losing his resolve the longer into the affair it goes. Maybe he didn’t want to be shot.

They are on an ally coming into Odeonsplatz. Someone hears Hitler shout, “Surrender, surrender!” Someone tries to say not to shoot because His Excellency Ludendorff is coming. Who knows, if he had left off the “His Excellency” part they might not have fired.

But fire they did. Of the front row, only Richter was dead. His arm interlocked with Hitler may have pulled him to the ground. Most of the leaders dropped out of fear. Only Ludendorff and one other kept walking forward through the police line. The fourteen who died were almost all nobodies behind the leaders. Hitler scrambled off to a get-away car—the first to run away.

The putsch was a failure.

5. The economic and political conditions of Germany very quickly got better, and Hitler’s moment for revolution was over. France changed government and withdrew from the Ruhr. England, France, and Germany reached an agreement on the limits of reparations. The German currency was stabilized.

Meanwhile, those who judged the participants in the putsch were sympathetic to Hitler’s cause. Ludendorff was completely let off the hook. Hitler only ended up spending eight months in prison, during which time he wrote Mein Kampf. His trial actually gave him a platform in the media from which to give his agenda and to place himself as someone who could lead that glorious, nationalist future. What was he other than a destroyer of Marxism?

He was a great man, and what could great men do but be great?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Monday Paul 4

From last week
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So Paul had no interest in Gentiles back then. They might as well all die when the Messiah defeated the Romans or else take their proper place as servants of the Jews. Or so he said with his mouth. Those were his conscious thoughts and words.

But there was this gnawing at him somewhere deep inside. As a child, despite the mocking of his family, somewhere down deep, he admired these "poor" Gentile God-fearers. "How sad," he felt somewhere inside, "that these non-Jews loved the one true God so much and yet were not born, by God's choice, as Jews." He had never said those words. It was the passing, unarticulated feeling of a young boy.

Now this sect of Jesus-followers had arisen. The Pharisee in him wanted to shut them up as enemies of God, although not all Pharisees felt this way. There were a few Pharisees that he suspected were sympathetic to the movement. These Pharisees believed that Jesus was the coming king. They believed that he had risen from the dead and was soon coming back with ten thousand angels to redeem Jerusalem from the Romans.

One of them named Nicodemus was quite open about joining the movement. He still followed the traditions of the elders and ate according to Pharisaic standards of purity. But he had been ostracized from eating with the haberim of Jerusalem. This was a group of Pharisees that only ate together according to the highest kosher standard.

What had really alarmed Saul was when the movement caught fire among the Greek-speaking Jews of Jerusalem. The first followers had boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the anointed one, the Messiah, but they were more of a nuisance than anything. It annoyed Saul that they seemed to have the power to heal the sick. Why didn't he have that power? The people were flocking to these Jesus-followers. Why didn't they flock to him? Deep down, he was jealous.

And how absurd, the idea that the anointed one would die on a cross, the consummate tool of Roman humiliation! It was scandalous! It was abhorrent!

But when the movement spread to Greek-speaking Jews, it seemed even more dangerous. Many of these individuals were born out in the Diaspora, like Paul was. These were the people Paul wanted to distance himself from. This was the part of Paul he wanted to deny existed. He despised them because they reminded him of himself.

And now they too were flocking to this Jesus. They were louder about it than the Aramaic speaking followers of Jesus from Galilee. Uncouth, he thought. They were making such ground in the Synagogue of the Freedmen that the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, sent Saul to serve as a spy of sorts, to see if he could subvert the movement...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Seminary PL33: Time Management

This is the second post on church administration in my "Seminary in a Nutshell" series. In this series, I first did a section on the Person and Calling of a Minister. Now this is the thirty-third post in a section on the Pastor as a Leader (see at the bottom).

The previous post gave one perspective on kinds of habits that a good administrators and managers have. This post gives some more tips.
_________________
1. Another classic in management and administration is Ken Blanchard's One Minute Manager. Here is a collection of tips from the book:
  • Take at least a minute a day to look into the faces of the people who work with you.
  • Something is wrong if the people above you in the organization think you are great but the people below you think you are horrible.
  • It's not either results or people. It's both.
  • "People who feel good about themselves produce results" (13)
  • Productivity is both quality and quantity.
  • Meet with the team, perhaps once a week.
  • A good manager makes it clear what those under her supervision are supposed to do, and that is what they are held accountable for.
  • A goal should be able to fit in 250 words.
  • 80% of the really important results of an organization will come from 20% of your goals (which should be in a person's key area of responsibility).
  • Identify problems in behavioral terms that are observable and measurable.
  • Agree with those under your supervision on what the goals are.
  • When you have a goal, revisit it regularly to see if you are making progress. Blanchard suggests writing it down but there are now electronic means.
  • Always praise others when they do something well. "Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right" (23).
  • Supervisees should know that you are going to tell them how they are doing. And tell them. Give them a moment to feel approval or redirection.
  • Good managers give clear reprimands when someone under their supervision does something wrong. It is a brief reprimand that you feel and then it's over. The moment ends with reaffirmation.
  • The most effective minutes a supervisor has is the one he or she invests in people.
  • "We are not just our behavior. We are the person managing our behavior" (51).
  • "Goals begin behavior. Consequences maintain behaviors" (54).
2. Blanchard's book is not exactly on time management, although we would no doubt free up a lot of time if we followed its basic ideas. Because he emphasizes trust of your employees, clear goals with clear praise and correction, a lot of time would be freed up in supervision. A lot of time wasted in lack of clarity would be freed up.

For more conventional time management, I close out this post with notes from 15 Secrets Productive People Know about Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 239 Entrepreneurs. Here are some of the main points of the book, put in my words with my expansions:
  • Make every minute count. I should add that some purely "always be doing stuff" approach will not be as productive for most people as a day that includes social interaction, breaks, and so forth.
  • Time is your most important asset. There are 1440 minutes in a day. Know your every minute and where it is going.
  • Before you take on a new project, know how many minutes of your time it's going to take and whether you have them to give.
  • Have an MIT every day, a "most important task." Prioritize. 
  • Within each day, what are the tasks that will lead to achieve the MIT? Which one do I need to be doing right now?
  • Work on your number 1 priority in the first part of your day. Don't allow for interruptions (email, etc).
  • Work from a calendar, not a to-do list. Schedule tasks on your calendar ("time blocking"). Treat them like appointments. Schedule important things early in day. Don't cancel; reschedule.
  • Procrastination is a battle with yourself in five minutes. How can you sabotage your future self? How can you beat yourself when you know that in ten minutes you are going to procrastinate something you ultimately want or need to do?
  • Learn to accept that there will always be more to do. Don't feel like a failure because you go home from work without everything done.
  • Always carry a notebook. I'm laughing to myself because I have been doing a lot of the things in this book now for a few years. I'm not there yet, but this list is cracking me up.
  • Process email three times a day. Give 21 minutes to each session (321 method). 
  • Use "4Ds" with email: do it, delegate it, defer it, delete it (or archive). You might also file it.
  • Think twice before forwarding, blind copying, etc. Keep emails short. Deal with all email in 48 hours.
  • Put the action in the subject line (FYI, ACTION REQUIRED, No response needed, EOM--end of message, when the subject line is all there is to the email).
  • Treat meetings as a last resort. Start them on time. Make sure the right people are there and not the wrong people. Don't let the trivial take over. Don't let the wrong people dominate the meeting. Make sure they are scheduled at good times. Alternatively, I have also found that regular meetings can also serve as dedicated time to advance long term, quadrant II goals.
  • Say no, especially to things that do not advance your immediate goals. Every yes is a no to something else. "Beware of distant elephants." They may look small now... :-)
  • Eighty percent of the results will come from twenty percent of the action. This was also in Blanchard above. As you approach your life, your time, your work, where should your twenty percent focus be. Start there, focus there, and then branch into the other eighty percent.
  • Drop, delegate, or redesign. What activities can I drop entirely. What items can I delegate? What activities do I need to do but can redesign to do in a more time-efficient way? Play to your strengths and passions, not your weaknesses.
  •  Theme your days. Dedicate certain days to certain types of tasks. 
  • "Highly successful people take immediate action on almost every item they encounter." If a task can be completed in less than five minutes, do it immediately.
  • Invest the first 60 minutes of your day in activities that invigorate your mind, body, and spirit. Getting right to work isn't always the most efficient use of your time in the long run. Set your alarm accordingly. Sounds like devotions, a run, blogging. :-)
  • Productivity is about energy and focus, not time. That means good health. That means breaks. That means enough sleep.
  • The author gives some more tips even after he has reached fifteen. Capture, calendar, concentrate.
  • "Done is better than perfect." :-)
Next Week: Pastor as Leader 34: Project Management

Leadership in General
Strategic Planning
Church Management
Conflict Management
Church Administration

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

7. His Brand is Crisis

On to the next chapter of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer, titled, "War on the Ruhr." My reviews of the first seven chapters were:
1. 1923 was clearly a pivotal year for Hitler. 1923 threatened his attempt to start a movement in a very key way--Germany was in danger of stabilizing. Hitler had no power if people weren't angry, if the people weren't crying for revolution of some sort. It hardly mattered what the revolt was about. It just needed to be something.

For these reasons, Hitler didn't need to be consistent about who the enemy was or what the threat was. He could shift from one to another. The key was that the discontent continued. The material used to stoke the fire was almost immaterial.

In a sense, the crisis didn't even have to be real. The key was that people felt it was real. It is not a situation for reason but for passion.

2. The French were the major fuel in this chapter. There are important lessons about how you deal with the conquered here. Heiden says that "Among the foreign conquerors, they [the Americans] alone had given the German population the feeling that understanding was still possible between victor and vanquished, a return to peace without bitterness and vengeance" (162).

When you use your current power to beat an enemy down, you are often sowing the seeds of your own future demise.

The British were less friendly but at least had the good of the region in view. Their key interest in post-World War I was the stability and security of the region. It was thus important to them that multiple countries had access to the North Sea, not just France. British self-interest also led them to oppose France taking the coal-rich region to the west of the Rhine river, the Ruhr. England needed to sell coal to France, which they couldn't do if France itself was in control of coal mines. On this issue, the British were with the Germans.

3. But the French leadership had a winner take all approach. The French people wanted no more war--something Hitler knew and would later use to his advantage. But the French leadership wanted France to expand to the Rhine. There were strikes in this 'Ruhr" region against the French occupation, but they hurt Germans more in the end than France.

Hitler's worst fear at this time was that the French would return the land to Germany. He needed that outrage to fuel his fire. But instead, Germany finally yielded. Yes--the imperialism of France kept the fuels of revolution burning.

4. World War I left Germany and Austria vastly diminished. Poland was created as a country, and the Polish enjoyed their new found freedom to the disadvantage of Germans living there. Czechoslovakia was also newly created. They were friendlier to their Germans but still a thorn in Hitler's side. Italy now had territory that had once been Austria's, but Hitler urged to let that go because he wanted the Fascist Italians under Mussolini on his side.

For a time, the situation on the Ruhr enabled people like Hitler to have weapons. But when it was over, he had to return them. This was a moment when his movement was in danger by reason of stability.

5. For a time, he took aim at the communists. He begged the leader of the German police in Munich (the Reichswehr) to let his group have weapons. He aimed to shoot up a peaceful communist rally. He was refused and threw a tantrum. With the help of his allies in the Reichswehr (Epp, Rohm), he took some anyway. Thankfully he chickened out. Instead he went to a Reichswehr camp and tried to get more people on his side. He failed, was surrounded, was forced to return the weapons.

His movement was very vulnerable. Sanity was in danger of prevailing. He needed crisis.

6. Hitler seems to have certain narcissistic personality traits. When you are agreeing with him, when he needs to get something from you, he is nice, quiet. He acts submissive. But if you disagree with him, he goes crazy. He makes promises to someone, but then breaks them and says the other person is to blame for it.

The moderates in leadership think they can use him. They don't want to destroy him, only keep him in check for their own purposes. Mistake. "They employed the illusory, halfway methods which have destroyed so many moderate rulers who thought that they could make pacts with extremists and use them as tools" (178).

They keep trying to bring the crazy Hitler back to reality, to the realm of facts. But you don't reason with a crazy man.

4. Underlying all this is a mass of malcontents, including former soldiers who are unemployed. They are desperate, a pressure cooker in need of a release valve. And Hitler had only stoked their fires. Either he must give them a release or they might even consume him.

This was an interesting dynamic to the chapter. The demagogue stokes the fires of revolution. There's a point where even the demagogue cannot back off. The fires cannot be stopped. Hitler promised the head of the Reichswehr in Munich, some man named Lossow, that he would not lead a revolt, a coup, a putsch, as it is called in German.

Lossow's response was prescient: "If you continue your propaganda in its present form, it will inevitably lead to a violent explosion some day, whatever your intentions. You can't just go on talking for years, some day you will have to act" (155)

Monday, January 09, 2017

Monday Paul 3

From last week
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... So why couldn't the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah also atone for the sins of a Roman governor, even if he did not fully convert to Judaism?

Admittedly, Paul had not started his mission work with this understanding fully in place. It started as a question in the back of his mind, even in the very first year that he came to believe Jesus was the Messiah. But it would take some time to percolate and emerge in its full form.

It all started fifteen years previous, when he was still a Pharisee. As a Pharisee, he was quite zealous to force all Jews to keep the Law of Moses in all its details. And it was not enough to get them to keep what it said. They had to keep all the traditions that the fathers had passed down about how to live out the Law of Moses in everyday life.

So it was not enough for everyone to think that they were keeping the Sabbath day. It was not allowed for everyone to come up with their own sense of what it meant to work or not work. The fathers had debated this question already. The Pharisees might still debate some details, but they needed to get all Jews on the same page with them.

Paul saw this task as the key to the Messiah coming. If Israel would just keep the Law, God would send a king to overthrow the Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel.

So Paul could not have been further away from preaching to Gentiles when he was a Pharisee. As a child, he had known some Gentiles in the synagogue at Tarsus. "God-fearers," they called them. But his family talked badly about them and never socialized with them. "If they were really serious about God," his father used to say, "they would go ahead and get circumcised."

So Paul had no interest in Gentiles back then. They might as well all die when the Messiah defeated the Romans or else take their proper place as servants of the Jews...