This page will work fine without Javascript, but you're MISSING OUT! Curt Niccum

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thought for the Week

Why is it that those who invoke “sound doctrine” most are the ones who practice it least?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Top Ten for the New Year

This year’s Siesta Bowl reminded me of the amazingly large power wielded by my unfortunately small hands. In the last year, by my reckoning, I singlehandedly (actually I type with two hands, but then I only use two fingers, so you do the math) saved Daimler-Chrysler from further embarrassing itself and the Engineering profession by having the Dr. Z commercials removed. Furthermore, I started the corporation on its long road back to respectability and profitability by forcing them to sell off that carbuncle formerly known as Nash/Rambler/AMC/Chrysler. (By the way, I think I am due a newer model of Mercedes convertible than my ‘87 560SL. Actually, forget the convertible, I am definitely due a Maybach considering all the money I saved you, meine Herren.)


So, speaking of embarrassing, I, yet again, was absolutely correct when I predicted the University of Oklahoma’s abysmal performance in the Siesta Bowl. I do not understand why, with my tremendous track record in improving the course of global economic corporations, I cannot get the NCAA to institute a college football playoff system along with a perennial Consolation Bowl (to be held in Rhode Island) for my two favorite, but perpetually paralyzed playoff participants, Notre Dame and OU. At least this way one of them would win a Bowl Game.


Some of you, I am sure, are concerned about my safety (and wisdom). Should I poke fun at men three times larger and faster than I? Do not worry. I have that covered. I am wearing regulation running back uniforms from West Virginia, Boise State, USC, and LSU. They’ll never see me.


Also in the category of embarrassing fall the graduate papers I received last semester. I prematurely published my top ten list of student errors for, despite hopes to the contrary, my graduate students actually proved capable of competing at the undergraduate level. Although toying with the idea of not bringing these to light, fans (actually, just one reader) physically accosted me (actually, kindly stood at a safe distance) in a local restaurant this morning and clamored (actually, spoke in sweet, soft tones) for their publication. So, my dear friend, here are the top ten graduate student errors of last semester:

10) [Since 70% of this paper was stolen from a website, I cannot share the error with you for fear of breaking copyright laws],
9) “This essay limits itself to addressing soli the theme of the body of Christ.” [The theme of Christ’s body is numerous soloists singing? I’ve been in churches like that, but would have never gone there theologically.]
8) “Wisdom was the pentacle of society.” [I have about five pointers for how to improve that sentence.]
7) “Because at lease Mary Magdalene and Salome belonged to the lower class.” [Granted the church has mistakenly identified Mary Magdalene as a prostitute since the 5th century, but this is a new twist.]
6) “It is very possible that Paul wrote the letter within his lifetime.” [Perhaps, but didn’t he write, presumably posthumously, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life?]
5) “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vein conceit.” [Do not be verbose about your varicose.]
4) “Paul’s letters give us insight into the kids of problems Paul encountered.” [There’s the reason Paul never married.]
3) “These things exist as an arm of the work of the Alight God.” [I bet He travels on ether planes too.]
2) “The society around them was aroused with the supernatural world.” [WHAT? I did not know what to make of this one. Thankfully, another student provided the answer, which brings us to…]
1) “But then one of the twenty-four elders points out the Loin of the tribe of Judah.” [Loins, Tigers, and Bras, oh my!]


May your year be blessed.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Top Ten Team Names

As the Bowl Games commence with their long array of teams of dubitable quality and mounting evidence for the need of a college playoff system, one team in particular is sorely missed. Even those upset at this year marking the fiftieth anniversary of Notre Dame’s destruction of the University of Oklahoma’s longest winning streak cannot but rue the lack of a Bowl Game hosting the Fighting Irish. Oklahomans in particular were hoping for the creation of the Consolation Bowl, where the two teams most likely to embarrass themselves in a Bowl Game could play each other confident that one of them would actually win. Alas, OU is on its own this year. Now that South Bend’s greatest football team can only be found at a public high school, I thought it best to come up with a new name for the University’s squad – one that both honored the school’s mighty tradition and accurately reflected its mighty sorry team. Below are my top ten team names for the University of Notre Dame du Lac:


10) Our Ladies of the Lake
9) The Cluck of the Irish
8) Blarney the Purple Dinosaurs
7) The Irish Leper Clowns
6) The Irish Setters
5) Saint Patsies
4) Top O’ the Mournin’
3) The Fighting… I Wish
2) The Neuter Dames
and 1) The French.


Enjoy the games and don’t stay up too late trying to explain why LSU is in the National Championship.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thought for the Day

The 3,400,000 tons of chocolate produced this year (unfortunately down 9% from the previous year) are not adequate compensation for the poorly written papers I have to read this semester.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Ten Days of Christmas

As hundreds of thousands pack malls and outlet stores across America searching high and low for trinkets to please loved ones, that special gift remains elusive. I believe it is out of reach for several reasons. First, few Americans know how to spell “dictionary” or “thesaurus.” Second, the Japanese and Chinese recognize the incredibly greater markup possible on cheap electronics and toxic paint, both incredibly more addicting than learning how to spell. Vespucci, our eponymous forefather, probably saw this one coming.


Before sharing my top ten student errors for this semester, I felt some heartfelt statements from my educational (or psych) wards worth sharing. These are the sages and bards of tomorrow, so drink up the eggnog of their wisdom.


One appears to earnestly desire a future in composing Country Western lyrics:

“That is definitely something that left a footprint on my heart.”

Another student, shared this surprising statistic:

“Autism is a neurological disorder and is growing in popularity.”

Speaking of urological disorders, could we make it against the law for Texans and Oklahomans to say, “European chocolate”?  Here is a student with a completely different disorder:

“If you were to see someone you truly cared about, make a decision that would hurt them in some way.”

And finally, on occasion even ignorance cannot suppress honesty:

“The theater made them realize that the church had simply become a boring part of the world.”


And now the top ten errors for the Christmas season: Please feel free to have your favorite one embroidered on the apparel of your choice.

10) His message is pressed forward in a clear, flowing manor. (If not a description of a sermon in the Crystal Cathedral, it should win the award for the most mixed metaphors in a sentence.)
9) Because of the many analysis of the book by such great minds like Martian Luther and John Calvin. (Of spelling, grammar, and Reformed Theology – which one is the most out of this world?)
8) Paul tried to except everyone who wanted to know more about Christ. (Paul sounds a lot more like a modern Christian than the one I know about from scripture.)
7) We are all embers of one body. (Be truly on fire for the Lord!)
6) His analysis of this periscope captures the intent behind this passage. (His paper was also below C level.)
5) After words we headed home with a new understanding on our hearts. (Unfortunately, the new understanding probably had no connection to the words.)
4) Such a church is almost incomprehensible for a number of reasons, the main one being the unlikely hood of a church like this ever being started. (That’s right, we’re the latest gang in the inner city: Christians going crunk. Watch for the movie – Goys in the ‘Hood.)
3) Romans 14:1-9 is dealing with a secondary problem that overtime could become detrimental to the church in Rome if gone unaddressed. (Its about time someone researched overworked ministers and the effect they have on the church.)
2) Being a Christian is now about pride and flaunting our righteousness. (I think someone wants a publishing job in southern Oklahoma or Texas for Christmas.)
And 1) We served them food, children, and adults. (Deck the halls with Bos and Hollys?)


I hope you have a blessed holiday filled with joy, family, and a multivolume dictionary.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Top Ten

My schedule has been so hectic that I have not had the time to put together my top ten lists (which take on average about five minutes each). It is not that my schedule has changed, I just decided to rearrange my priorities by shifting things that really matter to the bottom of the heap.


Appalled with the latest uproar about Obama’s refusal to reduce his beliefs to a lapel pin, I decided that it would be appropriate to scour the American political system for candidates worthy of our country. So, here are my top ten presidential and vice presidential candidates for the next election:


10) Cole-Porter – Patriotic song and dance team
9) Cheney-Quayle – No more embarrassing headlines if Cheney starts shooting again
8) Boren-Sessions – Another attempt at truth in advertising based on their combined experiences in Congress
7) Doolittle-Goode – They will try to win on the congressional record
6) Akin-Pawlenty – What the country will be doing no matter who wins
5) Wyden-Fattah – Always looking for a bigger turnout
4) Clinton-Clinton – HillaryUS President and Bill, President of Vice. “Vote for me, my husband’s taste in women is impeachable.”
3) Al-O’bama – Gore and Barak would certainly capture the coveted Southern African-Irish-American demographic, would tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd
2) Crapo-Lott – An unlikely pair but certainly embody the current state of American politics
and 1) Boxer-Schwartz – The first all female Whitehouse, where nothing would be brief


I am now trying to find some way to attach my Hebrew & Greek Bible to my lapel in order to avoid the inciteful (pun intended) criticisms of those who mistake the trivial for matters of real substance.

 

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Curt Repurt - Episode 4

When a dear but communicationally challenged friend bewailed (in one sentence) the absence of blog posts, I felt compelled to once again wield the mighty laptop (which is mightier than the pen which is mightier than the sword which is mightier than the old woman who swallowed a fly – I don’t know why she swallowed a fly…). Actually, more than the thrill of receiving the missive from my carpally challenged colleague, the dread of grading freshmen exams has thrown me headlong into activities deemed immensely more entertaining, of which typing blog entries to myself ranks inordinately high.

So why the delay in blog posts? First and foremost, we have been caring for two foster babies. A local hospital called in desperate need of a foster family, so I felt compelled to assist even though we had a beautiful girl already in our care. I naively assumed it would merely require double the effort. Oh no, we’re definitely talking about an exponential increase that defies the laws of physics. We survived, but just barely. Second, I have a number of topics about which I need to write including the gullibility of Coloradans, why the government should not be involved in child care, why the church should be more involved, and fleeing youthful lists (actually that’s my excuse for not creating any more top tens, but I should probably add something referring to the interpretation of 2 Tim. 2 as well), but I really need to be considerably less troubled during the process of (de)composition.

So I begin with a rather tepid report of my recent trip to London. A Belgian colleague informed me last summer of an important Ethiopic manuscript of the Book of Acts privately owned in England. I had hoped, since there currently are a number of scholars attempting to photograph all of the religious material of Ethiopia, that someone would be willing to create digital images of the document for me to study. By the end of the summer I realized that the duty clearly was falling upon my shoulders. Now the only week I had left available for completing this project was during faculty meetings. Although not premeditated, I found this particularly fortuitous because it is nearly impossible to teach about Christianity in any positive way during the fall semester after a week of faculty meetings. So, I was understandably elated at this prospect and the rest of the faculty equally jealous. Unfortunately I was quickly informed that the faculty meetings were of such importance that I would have to squeeze my trip into a ridiculously impossible timeframe, not provide assistance to any of the British churches, and return in time to hear mountains of monotonous material uncritically assessed, frequently skewed, and irrationally applied. But I’m not bitter…. By the way, do not let anyone fool you about scholars in their “ivory towers.” They are definitely manila. I have a tower of Babble constructed of manila folders in my office serving as a monumental reminder of why the first sin clearly was the creation of committees. (Think about it. It’s true.) Oh, I have apparently become tenured at OC. I have never officially been informed of that, but I appear to be eligible now for a host of new committee assignments. Wheeeeee!

So, back to my trip. My first memorable encounter (thankfully from a good, safe distance) was in the OKC airport with a person I would label as “illegally brunette.” If anybody belonged within the stereotype of “blondes,” this woman did, yet her hair was jet black (and as far as I could tell, this constituted her natural hair color). However, she was dressed very much like the lead character in the movie “Legally Blonde” with designer fashions from head to toe. Part of her accessories included a neon yellow patent leather designer purse for her pet chihuahua (presumably made by Pucci). Although I had hoped to be unleashed from her at the next destination, this sharpei dressed woman flew all the way to London where, I am sure, she found an entire community likewise doggedly pursuing haut couture.

On the transatlantic flight I sat next to an intriguing gentleman who had worked for special ops in the British Army and now works as an executive in a major U.S. company. If you are aware of my luck with international travel, you immediately recognize this as an anomaly. Normally, when traveling without family, I have to babysit abandoned children or psycho teenagers. How wonderful it was to actually hold a conversation with an intelligent, well-read, well-travelled, and emotionally balanced individual.

I arrived at Heathrow at an ungodly hour which got me to my hotel about 7:30am to be greeted by two lovely Polish women whom I insulted by asking if they were Russian. I’m sure this encounter contributed to my room assignment – a poorly appointed closet I could not check into for another eight hours. So, I left one bag at the desk and packed up my computer, the amazing camera a dear friend loaned me (probably because she still felt guilty for going to Hallstatt, Austria, without me), my tripod, and notebooks and headed for the shop.

Now the antiquarian dealer who was holding the manuscript for me was located three miles away. Since I had arrived early, and especially since I could not afford this trip, I decided to walk instead of using the underground. Thankfully, most of the journey took me through the length of Hyde Park. This guaranteed me a lovely beginning and ending to my work days. I did have an occasionally strange encounter in my traverses of this Eden. One of my favorites was overhearing a conversation between a young man and a vagrant. The man who had obviously spent the previous night (and many others) on the park bench stated, “I believe we are often the victims of stereotypes. For example, I am not a drunk. I don’t drink alcohol at all.” (HUMOR ALERT! HUMOR ALERT! Since I find fewer and fewer people capable of identifying humor and especially sarcasm in written form, I feel obligated to inform you, my reader, that what happens next is not true. It is narrated in a humorous way to make a point. If you do not understand it, you might consider a career in checking airline baggage.) For a second I thought about his extremely sober and insightful comment, but then I remembered he was a bum and immediately dismissed it and walked on.
After eight straight hours of photographing the manuscript I headed back towards the hotel only to find the environment drastically altered. My worksite was located on Bond Street. For those of you unfamiliar with downtown London, this is the shopping center of the rich and famous. Here the fantastically wealthy and phenomenally idle jostle their way past middle class onlookers and armed guards into boutiques designed for those with impeachable taste and bottomless wallets. (The latter I find particularly ironic since the snobbish, half-nude waifs who darted in and out of their Bentley Azures to purchase the latest $3,000 pair of shoes were also bottomless. Apparently they spend all of their money on designer napkins to wear as “clothing” instead of budgeting for food.)

By the way, as unreal as that last description may appear to “normal” people, I am not exaggerating. In fact, I did see a Bentley Azure ($450,000 for those of you not up-to-date on today’s average vehicle costs) which was driven repeatedly around the block by a man making minimum wage as he waited for the owner to finally decide which neon yellow patent leather designer handbag to purchase for her pet dog. Why, you might ask? Because there is little to no parking on Bond Street. Not only that, but the city of London now heavily taxes any vehicle that enters the city center in order to reduce the high traffic load. And just half-a-mile away sits a homeless man victimized by stereotypes – not his own, as he thought, but by these plastic (and silicone) excuses for humans.

The quiet streets of London at 9:00am turn into a maelstrom of bodies by 5:00pm. I am a person who thrives in solitude. Give me a basement and an ancient manuscript and I am happy. As soon as the shop closed, I made my way, always against the stream of the mob it seemed, to get to Hyde Park where life was more pleasant. The first evening I headed straight to the hotel, supposedly a “Best Western.” Trust me, it was a “Lousy Western,” but it might have been a “Best Eastern.” All of the employees were Eastern Europeans and the hotel was located in the Arab section of town. (Thankfully my knowledge of Arabic made navigation, and perhaps survival, possible. )

Once established in my hotel room/closet, I went out to eat. This was depressing. First, I decided to eat “American,” which is always a lousy idea, but even more so in a foreign country. There was, however, a Burger King down the street and convenience (and economics) proved the deciding factor. Whereas in America we have the saying, “You are what you eat,” in England it is, “You weigh what you pay.” My Whopper cost a whopping four Pounds!

Whereas Arabs ruled the daytime hours, I soon found that drunken German and French tourists were London’s nocturnal creatures. Unfortunately my knowledge of European languages insured that not only did I not get any sleep, I understood every conversation one would wish to avoid overhearing.

I eagerly anticipated my return home. I was up hours before the shuttle picked me up at 4:00am, thanks in large part to the aforementioned continentals. Three hours later, when airline employees chosen specifically for their low blood sugar and slow response time began to think about opening the lines, I began to work my way through the various security systems. “Yes, I packed the baggage myself.” “No, I did not let anybody else touch my baggage.” “Yes, I understand why you are asking these questions. I’m not the only one who would like to destroy drunk French and German tourists.” Finally, I reached the bag lady, the one who determines in which country your luggage will be “lost,” and here I reached an impasee. Interestingly, although the American-owned airline is more than happy to allow you to bring two carry-on bags to England, you must return to the U.S. with only one. Normally I might happily oblige the enforcement of such sadistic regulations indiscriminately applied. After all, what better way to prepare for faculty meetings? But in this case, though, I had my computer and my friend’s expensive camera – two items which were not going to leave my sight. Thus an intense negotiation began. I obviously knew in advance I would lose. That is what makes the Free Enterprise system work so well – the passive capitulation of the masses to irrational demands imposed by owners of neon yellow patent leather designer doggie-bags. “Yes, I would love to pay boatloads of money to sit in a chair made of galvanized steel.” Ka-ching! “Yes, please give me seating roomy enough to please any pygmy.” Ka-ching! “Oh, and could I have food prepared by inmates at Guantanamo that tastes like Guano?” Ka-ching! “Could you please make sure I can only bring back to the States half of what I brought to England?” Ka-ching! “And, since I work for a university, might I sit next to those who have scored an 8 or less on the ACT exam?” Ka-ching! And somehow I am supposed to feel privileged to have experienced this for a mere $1200. But I digress…. In the end the bag lady made a serious flaw. She remarked that if my computer were not in the computer bag (which consisted of no more than ½ inch of padding around the entire machine) I could carry it on the plane, but as long as it was in a receptacle it was considered baggage and not a personal item. Without a word I grabbed my laptop, shoved the computer bag into my larger carry-on and checked it through to OKC. Triumphantly I marched onto the airport concourse with the camera bag on my back and bare computer in my hands. This time the MAN lost!

Or at least so I thought. As I found my seat, still gloating from the minor victory won at the ticket counter, I realized that the bag lady seated me in the middle of a group of French teenagers. C’est la vie. Maybe faculty meetings wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weird Thought for the Day

I fail to understand the importance of “No Child Left Behind.” On what basis does the absence of one cheek provide an educational advantage? Are we to reinstate corporal punishment but limit ourselves to one half of the buttocks during enforcement? Are American children somehow smarter if they undergo a rumpectomy?


This, it seems to me, is a huge mistake. Consider the exponential increase in the cost of education as chairs, desks, and other seating arrangements get retrofitted to accommodate the new anatomy. There is also the political cost. Whereas college students typically have voted conservatively in the past, will they now all start leaning to the left?

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Curt Repurt - Episode 3

In the last episode I discussed the theological cost of a Christan education, so now I will address the financial. Sadly, most choose not to attend (or, more accurately, choose not to send their kids to) a Christian university because of the price. Considering the number of young people abandoning their faith at State schools, the admitedly high economic cost quickly becomes reasonable in my opinion.


Although a firm believer in the value of Christian higher education, events surrounding my son’s entrance into Kindergarten broadened my horizons. We (in ignorance) intended for him to receive a public education. However, the teacher at his school explained to us her belief that males are dumber than females. As a result of that fact, she refused to teach boys how to read. Since Jonathan could already read, and, in our opinion, was much smarter than that Kindergarten teacher, we either had to move into a different area of Lubbock or put him into a Christian school. Not wanting to move, we made the necessary fiscal sacrifices to allow him to attend Lubbock Christian Schools. Now, at this point, the decision was primarily an academic necessity. However, my wife frequently helped the teacher at LCS. Near the end of the academic year, the teacher always surveyed the children as to what their favorite subject was. As Deborah worked her way through the class roster, she was amazed at how many students responded, “Bible.” When she asked the teacher about this, the Kindergarten teacher admitted that 85-95% of the students each year listed Bible as their favorite subject. That decided it for us. No matter what the cost, sending our kids to Christian schools was no longer an option - it was a necessity. And what a blessing it has been!


When I went to Lubbock Christian, they did not give out large scholarships for smart students. (They did give out Christian Leadership scholarships to the football team because it was an “unscholarshiped” program, but I’m not bitter….) Since my parents were middle class, I did not qualify for any government aid. Also, because my parents recognized I was horrible with money, they limited the assistance they would provide. (This proved to be an extremely valuable lesson.) I tell you all of that to let you know that I could not afford the second semester of college. I sat in the Business Office for seven hours one day refusing to leave until something could be worked out so I could continue my studies. For the next four years, I attended LCU taking 16-21 hours a semester while working 50-70 hours a week. Even then, there were months when my wife and I had only one dollar to get us through. (For the longest time I could not stand the smell of Macaroni and Cheese - we had consumed so much of it. Six boxes cost a dollar back in the good old days.) Still, my Christian education was worth every penny and more.


I never can remember what I have written about on this blog, so the following story is probably a repeat. If it sounds familiar, then hold up two fingers so I can recognize that this is indeed the second time I have shared it. (I inherited this little trick from my grandmother. Of course, her stories were always so good, we never felt like letting her know.)


My dear friend Amos served in World War Two. At that time the government created the GI Bill which allowed veterans to attend college when they returned home from the war. Amos was thrilled about the fact that he could now receive a Christian education, a lifelong dream of his. Unfortunately, because of the color of his skin, the university of his choice would not admit him. This hurt him deeply. For him, a Christian education was the only education, so he never attended college. Instead, he became a mail carrier. As his children neared their college years, he wanted them to benefit from the dream he never realized. So he sent at least three of his children and one grandchild to Oklahoma Christian -  all on a mail carrier’s salary.


In light of all this, perhaps you can understand why I cringe when a family drives to OC in a Cadillac Escalade for a campus visit and the parents get angry (and sometimes violent) because of the expense. They have no problem spending a large sum for a car, but don’t ask them to invest a fraction of that in their children’s professional and spiritual future. How amazingly selfish! (I wanted to use “idiotic” here, but my wife is trying to get me to use different, if less appropriate, language.) OK, I’m getting angry just thinking about this.


Why does a Christian education cost so much? There are two primary reasons. First, we do not get government aid. By law, tax dollars cannot offset the cost of Christian schooling. Second, and much more significant, not enough people in the church appreciate the value of what the Christian university provides. It may be hard to believe, but about 60% of a student’s education at a Christian school is paid for by the donations of generous, godly people. Tuition and the other costs each student bears represent the 40% that remains to be paid.


Do you want to see more affordable Christian education? Then give. That’s the only solution. (By the way, I would like to create a minority student scholarship in the name of Amos Rice, Sr., and his lovely wife Joanne. Amos passed away, a hero in so many ways, last September.)

Trust me. A Christian education is a bargain at any price.

 

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Weird Thought for the Day

My wife recently attended an Arbonne party. As proof of the efficacy of topical medications, she was told that if you placed a clove between your toes, after about 30 minutes your mouth would begin tasting its flavor. Always skeptical of any organization incapable of pronouncing its name correctly, I decided to run my own experiment. Sure enough, as soon as I quit wearing clothes, my problem with cotton mouth disappeared.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Top Ten List

Considering the large classes I taught last semester and the considerable number of writing assignments given, one would expect me to share a host of student errors with you this year. The problem, though, resides not with the number of errors (of which there were a plethora), but finding enough that actually made sense. I wish I could just share the worst ten papers with you, but I am afraid that a large portion of the populace would move to China so their children could actually learn English instead of taking the (apparently huge) risk of acquiring language skills in our own public school systems. After this last semester I find the legislative attempt to make English our national language particularly ironic.

Well, my one blog reader certainly knows what to expect by now. So, here are the top or bottom ten student errors for Spring 2007:

 

10) If God’s people are called to be holly, they must show it. (Apparently name tags will not be needed in heaven. “Welcome to the Pearly Gates, my name is Holly, this is my brother, Holly, and this is my other brother, Holly!”)
9) Humans naturally work hard for good careers, well-playing jobs and pleasures. (Apparently I’m not human.)
8) Chris calls us to be one body, one church, one people. (And then there is the other group that hangs out at airports, the Harry Chrisnas.)
7) This scripture was referring to Israel and the hostel take over by the Assyrians. (Nothing ruins a good, inexpensive vacation more than a youth hostel occupied by Assyrians.)
6) I chose to write a lamination psalm. (If there is a religious song we don’t have, it’s one about lamination.)
5) Laodicea specially bread their sheep to produce wool. (No wonder I keep finding crumbs on my sweaters. So is this a different interpretation of lamb-n-ate?)
4) Worship would have been much more meaningful to me if I could have been apart of it. (Your absence would make me more worshipful too.)
3) One must look at how Jesus acted before his disciples at the Last Summer. (For college students, no other time in Jesus’ life is more meaningful.)
2) In the lesion on Sunday this was not presented. (This error was obviously due to momentary wraps of lesion.)
And 1) Matthew leaves us with even the grader thought that Christ never really leaves us. (Thankfully, I, as the grader, did take comfort that Christ never really leaves me. If only the students had….)

 

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Curt Repurt - Episode 2

I know without a doubt God communicates through the written word, but the last place I expected to receive revelation was in the pages of The Oklahoman. Imagine my chagrin when the headline of the Religion Section of Saturday’s paper read “Thou Shalt Update Thy Blog.” I knew immediately the message had to be obeyed since it was in the King’s English.


Before addressing a theological issue, I suppose an update is in order. Since the inaugural Curt Repurt much has happened which delayed the expected second installment. First, I found myself overwhelmed with eighty sub par research papers to grade. (That is an exaggeration, I was overwhelmed with 80 research papers, but only 76 of them were sub par.) Furthermore, recognizing I could not complete grading before the deadline for final submissions, I asked the university administration about the proper procedure for recording grades late. This was a big mistake. Asking university officials for advice proved horribly detrimental. By following their protocol I received daily threats concerning the remaining follicles on my head from said administrators because not all of my grades were in. This resulted in a loss of significant man hours as I had to read each missive. Although, thankfully, our administration hires people who can read and write, which provided a pleasant change from the papers I was so diligently attempting to assess, the tension sent me into a tailspin of depression. (Actually, that’s a lie, but I’m not that concerned with ethics – see below. The tension actually sent me to large quantities of Dr. Pepper and chocolate, the latter of which was so generously provided by the students fearing that I would give them the grade they deserved, but I digress.)  After tremendous frustration, colleagues informed me that one should ignore official procedure and turn in blanket “incompletes.” Doing so results in the administration naively believing you have dutifully turned in grades and allows you to spread the bad papers throughout the entire summer. Obviously, as a theologian, I recognize the ethical implications of this practice as well as the disconcerting similarity to how many approach their relationship with God. Thankfully, though, at OC we have relegated ethics to the Business Department.


Immediately following the end of the regular semester I began teaching undergraduate and graduate summer school courses at OC. The Preaching Seminar at the Austin Graduate School of Theology followed quickly on their heels. Speaking of heels, I once again trounced Glenn Pemberton in both wit and biblical interpretation – at least that’s what I hear (whenever I say it). Unfortunately this year the folks at Austin allowed Glenn to have the last word… so I left early.


Later that week my daughter graduated from high school which meant we had a house filled with family. That, of course, was GREAT! Something of this magnitude rarely happens. For some reason, both sides of our family usually choose to visit everybody else. For example, when my sister lived ten miles from the Atlantic Ocean and my brother one mile from the Pacific, we never got together in Oklahoma – the near perfect geographical center. Deborah (and Glenn) think this has something to do with me. I blame it on the cat.


I then spoke for free at a youth rally in Houston. (Yes, Glenn, I’m still offering my services gratis even after the university penalized my kids for being too smart.) Soon after that gig I taught a week long graduate course for ACU. That was an amazing experience! And now I am in Bartlesville doing a seminar on the Dead Sea Scrolls and surveying recent discoveries pertaining to the history of Christianity.


That brings us up to today. So, basically, I have spent way too much time in Texas and way too much money at Starbucks, especially in Whacko (a convenient stopping place for trips to the nether regions when traveling I-35 and a more than appropriate place for Chip’s alma mater). Thankfully, I averaged 54mpg on the trips, so the savings in gas helped defray the expense of java.


Now to the task at hand: My goal is to use the Curt Repurt to address theologically related issues that I consider pertinent or at least mildly amusing. Sometimes, as with today, I can integrate both.


While preparing for the Sermon Seminar it dawned on me that a lot of theological argumentation and even biblical interpretation today resembles the witch scene in Monty Python’s “The Search for the Holy Grail,” one of the greatest movies ever made. This vignette defies description and must simply be seen to appreciate. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yp_l5ntikaU) As a result, I originally suggested “Duck Theology” as an appropriate designation for this practice. Of course, in biblical studies we choose to exercise disciplines that sound much more dignified, so I seriously doubt general acceptance of this nomenclature (although the praxis remains widespread). Following historical precedent, I now suggest this method of interpretation be called Entengeschichte (i.e., Duck Criticism, or History of Ducks) and the field be designated as Anatological Hermeneutics. This, I believe, will make it, at least superficially, more credible. I truly believe, though, the entire enterprise should be considered Daffy. It is this approach which has produced conclusions such as 1) one cannot clap during worship and 2) sending one’s offspring to a Christian university basically condemns them to hell because all (or most) are cesspools of false teaching. Today I am concerned with the latter claim.


Entengeschichte requires the use of faulty premises. And although a large number of them are required in order to conclude our children are safer in the hands of pagans than Christians, I wish only to address one for now: No false teaching occurs at public institutions of higher learning.


Such a claim cannot be true. When I was a minister in Lubbock, Texas, a friend of mine related her experience in a Family Studies course at a large state university. The teacher, a retired preacher from another denomination, stated that biblically only women could commit adultery and that the Bible did not condemn premarital sex. My friend related that many of the four hundred students filed out expressing verbally their relief at discovering these truths. She, on the other hand, approached the instructor and asked on what basis he made these claims. He responded that he knew the Bible taught otherwise, but these students needed to feel better about themselves.


This year I have received a number of e-mails from students in state universities reacting to claims made in some of their courses. These included the following: The Dead Sea Scrolls prove the stories of the New Testament are false, Christianity borrowed all of its practices and beliefs from other religions (most notably Mithraism), and organized religion purposefully withholds critical data from believers to inhibit doubt or enlightenment.

Here is an excerpt from one message (I have only edited the text grammatically and syntactically):

“It seems that in all my Bible studies I was never told about the other side of what we (church of Christ) hold as truth, like the fact there are over 20 or 30 gospels, that there were 60 false Christs running around when Jesus was, and 1000 first century documents and letters about Jesus and his believers.  Why is over 80% of the New Testament written by one guy, with others written by the guys with Paul?  There were 12 apostles, Judas dies, they vote in Matthias, then Paul comes along making it 13, then nothing but Paul mixed with Peter, John, Matthew and Paul’s own followers.  It just seems a little biased or one sided. Where are the other apostles? Did they write anything? You would think they would have a lot to say, with the whole upper room incident and day of Pentecost. I read about the Q gospel which Matthew and, I think, Luke used along with Mark’s gospel to write their own, and the (discredited??) Gospel of Thomas. Why didn’t they canonize the Gospel of the Hebrews, of which evidence supports early use?  The “Church Fathers” wrote a bunch, but long after Jesus, the apostles, and even other religions, like Tertullian (late 2nd century) commenting on the many similarities between Mithraism and Christianity. We know that the Catholic religion kept the text from the common people for centuries, that kings have distorted it, which I know it seems to be fixed today, but how do we know what we know is the right way? Modern religion can’t even agree. 

At first I felt a little betrayed by my professors at OC, but that’s long gone because I should have studied more on my own not taking things people say at face value, but reading it for myself.  But it has started this roller coaster of uncertainties, random facts, half truths, obscure hypotheses, on Jesus the man, the savior, God.”

By the way, this student admittedly never took any of my courses during his short tenure at OC. Of the few “facts” he identifies, I address all of them in my courses, and most of them in “The Life of Christ,” the very first Bible class incoming freshmen at OC must take. All of these issues surfaced in a Humanities course at a public school. Additionally, the professor presented them in a way clearly designed to instill doubt in conservative Christian students. (The student himself admitted this. I am not reading something into the e-mail he sent.)


This week I had a conversation with a salesperson in my home. When he discovered my vocation, he eagerly explained what he had been taught at a premiere university in this state. He was proud not only to have learned that one cannot know anything with certainty from the Bible because it has gone through so many different versions, he went on to narrate how he was attempting to discourage his mother from putting so much faith in the teachings of a largely unknowable, and therefore useless, document.


Please recognize that I do not wish to create another left wing conspiracy theory. Not all professors of religion or the humanities at state schools actively antagonize faith. Many do, however, and some openly make that claim in class. I only mention this because the e-mails I have received this year are responses to such situations and, more importantly, this all goes to show that one of the major premises of Daffy Theologians is patently false.


My detractors will certainly respond, “That doesn’t alter the fact that Christian universities promulgate false teaching from which we must protect our children.” I’ll grant that premise, although it certainly is arguable. (Realize, however, that the same is true of much preaching and therefore, following the Anatological Hermeneutical method, we must conclude that we should keep our children from Christian assemblies.) Here is the primary difference: State colleges and universities do not provide the tools, resources, and environment required for critically assessing religious claims. Although some Christian schools also fail in that category, most don’t. At OC, my students are encouraged to distrust everything I say. (They really don’t need any encouragement in that regard.) Anything new I present engages them in further study of the Scriptures, including the literary, historical, social, cultural, and religious contexts of the Bible and even of themselves. All of this also takes place within a larger community of faith. The end product is usually a stronger more refined faith, not a destroyed one. This seldom occurs at other types of schools.


Studies show that about 50% of Christian students lose their faith in college. Research is currently under way to assess the exact impact on students connected to the Restoration Movement, but my experience, brief as it is, suggests that we lose our children at basically the same rate. Experience also indicates that a much, much smaller number of people lose their faith at Christian universities. If my observations, which currently remain scientifically unverified, are true, then the risk of losing one’s faith at a state school is astronomically high. Must we presume, then, this must be for some other reason than “false teaching”?


Now some might counter that they are aware of the risks of a public education. The real problem is that the “false teaching” at pagan universities is better than the “false teaching” at Christian ones. Hmmm. Clearly a more refined premise, but if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck…. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Curt Repurt - Episode 1

In 2004 I received a copy of a bulletin from a church in Tennessee. I used to display it prominently on my office door. I would still have it there today, but for my wife (whom it bothered) and my students (who found the legalistic twisting of Scripture fascinating and tended to “borrow” copies to show friends and loved ones). With such an introduction I imagine your speculations as to the topic of this bulletin article have run rampant. Your first guess was probably correct: the preacher condemned my choice of clothing for a family picture. (It is the same picture that appears at the top of this website, by the way.)


I quote, “The work of God has great dignity about it and His preachers need to show such in word, deed, and dress. Some people have more respect for the way they dress their dog than some brethren do when they go to church.” He concludes by saying, “Curt Niccum looks like he is proud he won the hog-calling contest.”


Now, this article did not mention that the picture in question had nothing to do with preaching. Nor did the author attend the seminar to find that I alone, of all the presenters, wore a suit and tie. However, I am indebted to this person for making me rethink the connections between ministry and attire. Indeed, I was raised and educated to believe the very things he stated. Despite the good intentions of my elders in Indiana, I could not rid myself of coat and tie. But further investigation spurred by this piece of junk mail has me now holding a decidedly contrary view.


First, by imposing a standard of dress separate and apart from those who gather to worship God with me, I introduce division into the church. Examples are numerous. A friend of mine led a youth group on a week long wilderness trek. As the group headed home on a Sunday they decided to stop to worship with a church (also in Tennessee, incidentally). As they entered the church building the elders of that congregation informed the group that they would have to worship in the lobby of the building as their dress fell short of God’s expectations. I have seen others turned away from serving the Lord because their economic status prevented them from owning a coat and tie. Such a focus on “proper” attire detracts from the universality of the gospel. Indeed, although addressing a different cultural issue, do not the principles enumerated in 1 Peter 3 not also apply? Does not God place all the value on the attire of the inner self and the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit?


Second, to self-impose a higher quality of dress than that found on those with whom I serve ultimately denigrates God. The article’s author calls attention to Exodus 28 where God describes the priestly garments. I find his application of this passage particularly difficult to fathom. He states, “The point I am trying to make is the principle involved with reference to clothing before the Lord. It made a difference then, so why not today? Christians are priests today.” The context, though, demands a quite different conclusion. The garments mentioned in Exodus 28:1-41 set the priest apart from the people (see especially verse 40). But if all the people are now priests (which I firmly believe), the need for distinction has passed away.


Even more importantly, these elaborate and costly articles of clothing were not to be worn “before the Lord.” Scripture does, on the other hand, detail what the priests are to wear in His presence. Is it the golden ephod? No. Is it the breastpiece adorned with precious stones? No. So what then? According to Exodus 28:42-43 and Leviticus 16:3-4 (see also 23-24), the plain and simple clothes of a slave!! My position before God is clear. He is Lord. I am but an humble servant. Perhaps my clothing should reflect that rather than a culturally conditioned couture of self-importance.


Interestingly, the author argues that “some say they can worship God just as well in ragged overalls,” a statement eerily reminiscent of an article by Alexander Campbell in the Millennial Harbinger where he excoriated those who attended worship assemblies dressed in fine clothing. At least for him, nothing spoke higher of true, spiritual worship than a worn set of dungarees. Although not sharing the political motivations that produced that statement, I find Campbell much closer to the truth than what I was taught in the colleges of biblical studies at Christian universities. So, if by looking like one recently winning a hog-calling contest I can 1) testify to the universality of the gospel, 2) reinforce the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and 3) draw attention away from myself and focus it on the Creator God, the only one worthy of honor and glory, then “SOOOOOEEEEYYYYY!!!”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Inauguration of the Curt Repurt

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Curt Repurt, a weekly (or more likely biannual) look at religious life or any topic I feel like discussing. Some will immediately recognize a possible connection to the Colbert Report, one of my favorite television shows. Any similarities to actual people or events are purely accidental. (And no animals were hurt during the production of this report. However, should I actually compose a Repurt at home instead of the office, I cannot promise that the cat will escape without harm.)


One of the biggest differences between my Repurt and the show I am not copying is the pronunciation of the name. Colbert (pronounced “cold beer”) is apparently of French extraction. One can produce a litany of problems with the French, but their linguistic inefficiency ranks near the top. If any country needed “Heuqued on Phoniques” it would be France.


Our recent trip to Poland highlighted this fact. The Polish use consonants like the French use vowels. (The problems the Gauls have with their vowels makes them inconsonant.) The Poles, however, believe in pronouncing every single one, even when physically impossible. I find this admirable. I may not be able to say “excuse me” in Polish (przepraszam), but its theoretical pronunciation is without doubt. Compare this to the French word for water, “eau.” Somehow these three vowels should be reduced to one: “o.” Despite the Trinitarian theology inherent in this philological phenomenon, anybody can see this should be pronounced “yeow!” The five genders in Polish further contrast the precision of the Polish language over against French, who have only two: Feminine and Neuter. (Rumor has it that the French at one time also had a masculine gender, but recent history has shown that to be false.)


But I digress…. I descend from Germanic tribes. Although I do have ancestors who technically lived within the borders of France, a fact with which I have yet to accept gracefully, they all thankfully spoke German. Thus, when referencing future episodes, please give utterance to each and every letter, and do not forget to roll your r’s. It should sound something like the “Coor-r-r-t R-repoor-r-r-rt.”


I would love to handle religious topics the way Stephen Colbert addresses political issues. However, despite the evidence that God has a great sense of humor, many Christians remain oblivious to that particular divine characteristic. God is supposedly too busy sustaining Creation to crack a joke. Furthermore, my weapon of choice is sarcasm, a particular comedic refinement lost to many. This means that readers often misunderstand much of what I write. However, judging from certain responses to my previous blog entries, some cannot even understand me when I am serious.


Well, the six KrispyKreme donuts (I’m on a diet so I cut my normal consumption in half) and three cups of coffee I had for my birthday breakfast are beginning to wear off. I better go look for some chocolate.

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