Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ordination Papers - The Human Need for Grace

I have a specific question on this ordination response: do you think I should use the word "moron?" The word describes my feelings quite precisely, but will it come across too slangy? Any other suggestions would also be appreciated!

2. What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace?

People are morons.

Okay, that may be a little strong. Let me back off of that a little bit. The practice of ministry has illuminated for me an understanding that without divine grace, humanity would live disconnected, isolated, lives – which frequently causes us to act like morons! This isolation manifests as sin in many ways. The most insidious of these sins are pride, prejudice, and pretension. Without God’s grace, people tend toward a prideful notion of inflated self-importance that is marked by self-centeredness, arrogance, and greed. The flipside of pride is prejudice, which minimizes the worth of another person based on a quick judgment made based on and unfair association of the individual with a group rather than a real relationship of mutual respect and trust. If pride isolates by inflating the self, prejudice isolates by deflating the other.

The third manifestation of isolation is more subtle, and comes in the form of pretensions, by which I mean attitudes and actions that are intended to mask the truth by falsely claiming that circumstances are better or healthier than they really are. What is truly evil about these pretensions is the multi-layered deception involved, in which the human tendency is to pretend that we don’t notice the pretension, even when all people involved are fully aware of them. This phenomenon is what allows us to nod and mumble, “How are you?” to our sisters and brothers sitting around us at worship, even when we do not really want to hear how they are actually doing. Further, it allows the responder to mutter an equally incoherent, “Just fine” without really meaning that, and without any intention of telling the questioner how they really “are.” Pretensions separate people from one another by inhibiting true relationship based on openness and honesty.

The force that acts counter to this isolation is the grace of God, which is a uniting, relationship building power at work everywhere and at all times. And if people will accept God’s grace by connecting to one another and to God, we inevitably find that life is a whole lot easier to live. Practicing ministry has shown me that there will be times that we can help another, and times that we need help; there will be times that we can comfort someone who is grieving, and times when we grieve and need another’s shoulder on which to cry; there will be times when we can serve, and times we need to allow ourselves to be served, and so forth. This is grace. Grace is the ongoing creation of loving relationships centered around the mystery of God, and without it, we are nothing more than a bunch of morons.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Blog Milestone

Sometime last weekend, Enter the Rainbow was visited by its 30,000th hit. (Since June 25, 2005 when I put on the little counter thing.)

I wonder if this will fit into the Conference definition of "fruitfulness" in ministry?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reverend Photog Back At It

After a month of inactivity, I have begun posting my photographs again over at Reverend Photog. I invite you to check it out.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ordination Papers - Understanding of God

Here you go, another answer for the Board of Ordained Ministry's questionaire, the answers to which will go a long way toward determining whether or not I am ordained next Spring. This time, from the "Theology and Doctrine" section. Comments are appreciated:

1. Understanding of God
a. Theologically describe your current understanding of God.

I feel like the closer I get to understanding who God is, the more I realize there is to know. God’s capacity to be understood is infinite, so my current understanding is a relatively minuscule fragment, a single grain of sand in the vastness of the cosmos. I know God most fully in the incarnation, Christ Jesus of Nazareth. In Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection, I glimpse God at work in the world, and by patterning my life after the example of Jesus, I strive to live as God’s ongoing incarnation even now. As such, I come to understand God by striving to live as God desires, and my striving to live as God desires is informed by who I understand God to be.

I ground this dynamic understanding of God in my faith in YHWH, the God whose very name is a verb. In Exodus 3:14, It is written that God self-identifies as “I Am Who I Am” or “I Will Be What I Will Be,” thereby linking faith and action in an inextricable bond. The scriptures record the story of a God who creates, makes covenant, liberates, saves, heals, and most of all, loves. It is by these actions in history that God has been known for generations. And in Christ Jesus, God acted in the most complete way possible; God became human. In the act of incarnation, God became Emmanuel, or “God with us,” and gave the world a life pattern to follow. I have come to know Jesus through study and prayer, and I believe that as I follow the life pattern of Jesus, I come to understand more about God. That understanding then further informs my actions, and the resultant cycle of action and reflection facilitates my continued spiritual growth.

b. How has the practice of ministry affected your experience and understanding of God?
The practice of ministry has given me numerous opportunities to interact with people at many different life moments – birth, death, marriage, sorrow, celebration, and more. These relationships have afforded me glimpses of God at work in a variety of ways – a comforter for the grieving, a liberator for the oppressed, a burst of energy for the lethargic, a savior for the sinner, an uncomfortable agitator for the self-centered, a partner in joy, etc. The sheer volume of God’s capacity for active, vital, incarnate presence in people’s lives that I have witnessed and participated in over the short course of my ministry is indescribable. As a minister of Jesus Christ, it is my privilege to be able to help people name and claim the ways God is active in their lives. And as I have done so, my own knowledge and understanding of God has grown in the process, with the result that I am better equipped to name and claim how God is present in my own life.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I Dig Job!

Thanks to the guidance of the revised common lectionary, I have been digging into the book of Job for the last several weeks more deeply than I ever dug before. And you know what? It is a wonderful book!

I think maybe I had always simply bought into the nickel interpretation without really reflecting on anything deeper. You know the whole God-only-knows-why-bad-things-happen-to-good-people-so-just-shut-up-about-it-and-quit-complaining-you-big-whiner interpretation? But dwelling with Job these past four weeks has been like putting my hand to the flinty rock and overturning mountains by the roots to uncover the precious gems of wisdom contained therein. (see 28:9)

Por ejemplo, in chapter 31, Job’s poetic utterances are in the form of “If/then” statements. In a nutshell, he says that if he had done wrong, then he would understand being punished. Surface level interpretation might say that sentiment reflects the theology that says “bad behavior is punished and good behavior is rewarded,” and just stop there. But when you read the “if” statements alone, you get an idea of what the so called “good” behavior is. In other words, reading Job’s “if” statements gives us a glimpse of what God might require of people who want to be blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil (see 1:1, 1:8, 2:3).

Job’s “if” statements from chapter 31 include:

- Lying (v. 5-8)
- Giving in to sexual temptation (v. 9-12)
- Oppressing his slaves (v. 13-15)
- Sins of omission against the poor (v. 19-23)
- Idolatry and greed (v. 24-28)
- Contempt for enemies and strangers (v. 29 – 37)
- Bad stewardship of the earth (v. 38 – 40)

In particular, the sins of omission against the poor are very illuminating. Please indulge in the following:
“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail,
or have eaten my morsel alone,
and the orphan has not eaten from it …”

“If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing,
or a poor person without covering,…
who was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep.”

In other words, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 John 3:17) I answer = “It doesn’t.” The punishment Job describes for these sins of omission is horrific: “…then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.” (v. 22) Eww, gross! But perhaps the point is that our arms should be extended to the ones in need around us, and if they are not, they might as well not be there at all.

A close reading of Job, therefore, reveals a text that is profoundly meaningful from a social justice perspective. It is a “social holiness” book that weaves together personal piety and communal responsibility in a way that makes it nearly impossible to think about one without the other. And this is only one of the gems we have mined from the book of Job during our weekly Bible study sessions this past month. Pun intended, I dig Job!

Social Worker Murder Suspects Caught

You may already have seen this, but here is an update on the case of the kidnapping of baby Saige Terrell and the death of his social worker Boni Frederick. Saige is safe and in state custody and his mother and her boyfriend have been apprehended.

Story here.
Commentary here.
Video available here.

Thank you, God, for the life of Saige. Please continue to hold his mom in your care and give her a sense of your peace. Comfort the family and friends of Boni in their time of grief. And please send your loving spirit to be with social workers everywhere as they continue to do the tough work to which you have called them. Amen.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A New Axiom for Ministry

I think I may have another axiom for ministry. It might go something like this:

“Everyone is busy – deal with it.”

The reality behind this axiom: In general people live full lives, and young families especially spend much of their time negotiating the complexities, so you can’t be too upset when it seems they don’t have much time/energy left to give to the church. It’s not that people don’t care, or don’t want to, or are lazy slackers or anything. The hours of their day and the days of their week are so full of living life, what they need most is Sabbath rest, not more activities, no matter how holy they might be!

Our Director of Youth uncovered this axiom in trying to plan for a weekend he would be away. He happened to hit a weekend where four or five families had something else going on, and so he was not successful in finding a substitute to lead fellowship time. However, in a marvelous little good news/bad news twist, we only have four or five families involved with our youth ministry right now, so he actually didn’t need a substitute, because everyone is going to be busy! (Don’t you love that?)

People are busy in big churches, too. But the larger numbers of people mean that the overall ministries can absorb their individual busy-ness without feeling it too much. Four or five families might be busy, but there are a dozen more who will be there. In a smaller church like ours, though, having four or five families gone exhausts our youth group, as it would several other ministries here, as well.

However, the axiom is still true: Everyone is busy – Deal with it. We can’t chastise them for not giving of themselves to the church; at the end of their week, there is just not that much left to give. So maybe the church can offer Sabbath instead of more busy-ness. Maybe one way the church can “deal with it” is to allow people to slow down a bit rather than hurling ever more new and exciting activities their direction. Maybe we ought to go deep rather than go broad.

The term “balance” keeps coming to mind. If the church throws too many activities at the people, the balance will tip toward busy-ness. If the church doesn’t have anything going on, we get lethargic. The balance point is somewhere in between the extremes.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Social Worker Killed

Please do not miss this story.

A Cabinet for Health and Family Services social worker for the state of Kentucky, bringing a child in state custody for a visit with his mother, was murdered by the mother and her boyfriend, who then took the baby and fled.

It happened in Henderson, Kentucky, an economically depressed area where the Red Bird Mission, a United Methodist Ministry, is located.

My stomach hurts about this one. As foster parents who work within the family services system here in Missouri, my heart aches for the worker, Boni Frederick, her grieving family and her colleagues, who must be absolutely crushed. And I am praying hard for the safe return of the baby, who is in need of care that cannot be provided by his mom and her boyfriend.

There is nothing good to say about this situation. Only questions.

What kind of pain does a mom feel that would lead her to murder?

What is the baby experiencing, what did he see?

How will this affect the way Boni Frederick's co-workers, and social workers everywhere, continue to do their vital and enormously under-appreciated work?

God, be with Saige. And his mom. Comfort those who mourn Boni's death. Soothe our troubled hearts, you who hold all of creation in your tender mercy. Amen.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Ordination Papers - "Style of Ministerial Leadership"

Knee deep in paperwork for ordination, I find it is time to remind myself that becoming an ordained pastor is not supposed to be as easy as printing a certificate from a website. I am grateful for this opportunity to dig deeply into my faith journey and reflect on my calling to ministry. It's just that doing so in the middle of pastoring full time, chairing the board for Missouri Ministers' School, serving as secretary of the District Board of Church Extension and Mission, ... and oh, yeah ... being a husband and a father, too, is a pretty stressful experience.

Anyway, here's another of my answers. Let me know what you think!

9. Describe your style of ministerial leadership in relationship to your congregation/setting.

No higher compliment is paid me than by the one who says with disbelief in their voice, “You mean YOU are the pastor?!” Last winter, a church member called me to say he had tickets to the Missouri Tigers basketball game, and to ask if I would like to go along. Two other guys from church were going, and I would be the fourth. The trip was great fun, and on the way home, I thanked the three men for helping me to feel “like one of the guys.” In response, one said, “But you ARE one of the guys.” I suppose I carry that “one-of-the-guys” style of ministerial leadership with me wherever I am, which makes it easy for me to relate to many different people, be they preschool kids or retirees, upper/middle class suburbanites or homeless sojourners stopping by for a cup of coffee, the longest of long-time church members or the newest of recent converts, and so on. I find that what happens when I relate well with others is that mutual trust is built within the relationships, and there is no more precious aspect of a pastor’s relationship with the congregation than trust. And there is no aspect more fragile.

The danger of a style of ministerial leadership like this is the potential deterioration of healthy boundaries. Although I may act like “one of the guys,” really I am not. I am the pastor, set apart for a lifetime commitment to ministry of service, word, sacrament, and order. I am the one people will look to for theological guidance, spiritual nurture, pastoral care in painful moments, and so forth. And this kind of role cannot be played by just any friend among many. Yet if lived out with integrity and sensitivity, an informal, familiar leadership style with the congregants may in fact enhance our relationship, thanks in large part to the trust that is established. It means that, as I engage and equip others for ministry, as I speak prophetic truth shaped by the ongoing mission of God, as I provide comfort and care for the afflicted (and occasionally provide affliction for the comfortable!), I do so upon the foundation of strong trust. They know me and I know them;we trust each other. It is a trust I am careful never to abuse, and never to take for granted. There may be some who do not take me as seriously as they would if my style was more authoritarian or managerial, but there are many, many more who respond affirmatively. (Plus it is just a whole lot more fun!)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Foster Parents

As foster parents, Erin and I are part of a team of people who are working on our kids’ case. Yesterday, we spent our morning attending our first meeting of this entire team. It was quite an intense experience. The foster care process includes this kind of meeting every now and then, just as a way for everyone to check in, give updates on how things are proceeding, and continue to work towards the goal of permanency for the kids.

Present at this meeting were the two kids, Erin and me, the kids’ mom, the kids’ paternal grandmother, the kids’ dad’s lawyer, the kids’ lawyer, the kids’ medical case manager, the kids’ case worker, the kids’ therapist, the case worker’s supervisor, a court representative, a community representative, and the Assistant Director of the Children’s Division office. So, picture all fifteen of us crowded around a conference table in a meeting room that was clearly designed to accommodate exactly fifteen people sitting around a conference table, but nothing else at all.

This meeting was the first time for us to meet the kids’ mom (and the kids’ grandmother, for that matter). Needless to say, we were feeling a TON of anxiety going in. What would she be like? Would she resent us? Would she care at all? All we knew about her was based upon what her daughter told us following their weekly visits. And of course, her daughter loves her. But was that just because all kids love their moms, no matter what? Maybe we were over-thinking this, but we were pretty nervous about the meeting, wondering what she would think of us, what we would think of her, and how we would get along with each other.

Well, despite our sense of foreboding, meeting the kids’ mom was a very positive experience. She was friendly and gentle, and very affectionate with the kids without smothering them. She held them on her lap for most of the meeting, but let them down when they wiggled so that they could go sit with someone else, mostly either their grandmother or one of us. It felt similar to a family gathering, where the kids will wander from relative to relative, trusting that any of several different people would give them a lap to sit on and a couple of arms to hug, and Erin and I were two among the several.

I say it felt similar to a family gathering, but nobody was eating barbecue chicken and baked beans off of paper plates on the front porch. Our purpose was to discuss “the case.” So Erin and I told everyone about how the kids were doing, acting, eating, conversing, playing, dressing, “getting along,” and basically everything they have been up to for the last two months. We told them about dentist and doctor appointments, about day care, about church. We talked about their temper tantrums and their moods after a visit as compared to before. We told them everything we could think of, than answered their questions for the rest of the info they needed. It was, all in all, about thirty minutes worth of conversation.

I can’t reveal very much about the content of what happened, of course, but as I reflect on sort of how the whole thing felt, I would say that the meeting itself felt very much like a step in a longer process, almost but not quite a hoop through which to jump. Most of the people in the meeting had a demeanor that said, “I’ve done this before; I’ll do it again.” We had built up so much emotion and expectation toward the meeting, that it was almost anticlimactic once we got there. But I’m not trying to say that the people were cold and impersonal. In fact, all of the people involved were very friendly and open about the whole thing, talking with the kids and trying to draw them into the conversation. It was clear that the people around the table were all there because they wanted what’s best for the kids, and that is a good thing.

One final observation about this meeting: there has been a sweeping change in the philosophy of foster care in recent years, and a lot of people just don’t understand it. For example, I spoke with a friend at church about it, and her reaction was, “Oh, I bet the kids just clung to you for dear life during the whole thing.”

I replied, “Actually, no. They pretty much went straight to their mom and sat with her most of the time.”

At this, my friend was surprised. “Really?” she said, “I would have thought they would have been scared to leave your side with all those strangers.”

I’m not sure what exactly my friend was thinking, unless it was that since the court decided the kids would be better off away from mom for a while, the kids must agree. But as a general rule, kids love moms. And in particular, though they may not have lived with her for a while, she is still their mom, not a stranger at all. Of course they went straight to her mom and sat with her. We are foster parents, care-givers. We are not their parents.

As foster parents, we are a part of a team working in concert to see that the kids are safe and healthy, both in the short term and over the long haul. That might mean they go back to live with their mom after a few more months. That might mean that they are adopted by another family. That part of it is not our decision. Only the court can decide that. Our part is for the short term – to take care of them, to love them, to keep them safe and make sure they know that they are.

After the meeting was over, I told the kids’ mom, “We’re taking good care of them.” I just thought she might like to know. After all, she’s their mom.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

North Korea Thoughts

Adam has some good thoughts about North Korea - click here.

Rambling Thoughts: Lydia Patterson Institute

(The following is a post written by Bishop Monk Bryan, my grandfather, whose "rambling thoughts" about God, church, and life in general are a periodic feature of Enter the Rainbow, depending on how freely he will offer them!)

Last Monday I flew to El Paso; came back the next day. Our South Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops meets once each four years at Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso and once at Saint Paul Seminary in K C. ... I was [chairman of the LPI board from]1980 to 1984. I always enjoy being with my colleagues in the College of Bishops and it was good to visit LPI again and get reconnected.

LPI is a Methodist middle and high school, founded in 1913, for the poorest of Hispanic children in Juarez (just across the Rio Grande river; now over two million population) and in El Paso. There are now about 450 students, some two thirds coming each day from Juarez. Without LPI they would have no middle or high school and would be blank as to English. Many of the Juarez homes from which they come are below our understanding.

LPI busses pick them up each morning and take them back at the end of the day. The jams at the check gates entering the U S take from one to two hours morning and evening; in winter the kids leave home before dawn and get back after dark. Yet there are few absences.

It is a risk program, considering the poverty, sometimes dysfuntional, often single parent homes from which they come. Lupita, a girl from Juarez, had planned for months to start in LPI last year. The school and a Methodist Church had worked on it, including rebuilding the family's shack home. But a few weeks before school started, Lupita disappeared. No one knows where she is. Lupita's younger sister is now in LPI and a still younger one is likely to be in two years.

Keeping in mind all the problems and struggles, there are few behavior problems, the attendance rate beats any of our U S schools. Over 90 % graduate from high school. And over 90 %, sometimes over 95 %, go on to college. Without LPI, they would know little or no English; upon graduation, all handle it well. There are working relations with our Methodist colleges, and LPI graduates are now in Centenary, Hendrix, Oklahoma City U, Southwestern U, Texas Wesleyan U, Nebraska Wesleyan U, Lon Morris, Wiley, S M U, Emory, Duke, and others.

LPI is contained to one block. There are plans to secure another half block in a year or two. And hopefully the other half of that block later. What a wonderful investment Methodism makes !!!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ethics of the Lowest Common Denominator - Part 2

I’ll start with an observation about human beings:

It is always easier to characterize groups than to relate to real people. And so we can feel bad for “the poor” or we can sympathize with “the Amish” or we can fear “the terrorists” or we can condemn “the gays” or we can vote against “the Republicans” or root against “the Broncos” and on and on and on. All of this without risk, without any thought of giving yourself up to the other, of sacrificing something for the sake of love, of offering to serve another child of God with a spirit of compassion and grace, in short, without any of that messiness that we would call a real relationship.

And this detached state feeds directly into the ethics of the lowest common denominator (the LCD ethic, if you will), the prevalent ethic that says one needs to act only slightly better than the group or the person who acts the worst. Consider the case study of terrorism and the treatment of detainees. Good or bad, why should we be concerned with how they are being treated? After all, terrorists have killed thousands of people over the decades, using deplorable techniques, and continue to wreak havoc around the world daily. The LCD ethic would say that the standard for the treatment of terrorism detainees is set by the terrorists themselves, the whole group of them lumped together as one evil blob.

However, Christian ethics start with incarnation, which is the most intimate expression of relationship that God could ever offer. The holy mystery of the trinity, itself an intricate interplay of relationship and unity, is made flesh in Christ Jesus in order to be real, in a reach-out-and-touch relationship by which God yearns to save creation. In the incarnation, God shows up for us so that our relationship with God is no longer an abstraction, but a tangible reality. Jesus gave himself up for the world, sacrificed his everything for the sake of love, knelt down to wash each individual disciple’s feet in the last moments of his life on earth, and made the messiness of human relationship more fully real than any of us ever could.

A “what if” comment last time asked what you would do if one person in your control knew the location of a nuclear weapon that would kill millions – would you torture them? Actually, I cannot ever picture myself in that position, and I’m highly skeptical that anyone but a TV character ever would, and so it is really hard to answer. The question is actually not responsive to the observations I am trying to make in this little dyad of posts. It falls into the category of a neat Youth Group conversation starter, but is not my point.

Mostly, I’m just trying to point out that when we start assessing our behavior by comparing it to a behavior that is truly horrible, we are in pretty big trouble. And further, that our tendency to do so is compounded by our equally sinful tendency to lump individuals together into large groups that we then characterize with broad, sweeping brushstrokes. Again, I’m not talking about the actual treatment of Guantanamo detainees. In fact, in a variation on the LCD ethic, the assertion that they are being treated well as a group is just as antithetical to Christian ethics as the assertion that they are being mistreated as a group.

Rather, a Christian ethic would demand to know how each one is being treated as a child of God, and insist that the sacred worth of every person be realized and respected. And that goes for detainees, guards, support staff, administrators – everybody – which is hard to do. But thank God Christ calls us to a higher standard, and may God give us the strength we need to attain it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ethics of the Lowest Common Denominator - Part 1

One of the reasons I am a Christian is because of ethics; the ethics of Christ resonate with me in a way that feels right. I have chosen to follow him, in part, because the pattern of life that Christians are called to follow provides an ethical center that makes sense to me. With that in mind …

Somebody please correct me if I have misunderstood something with this one. I am sure that I must be oversimplifying the situation again, a habit of mine which some of my friends have been kind enough to point out in the past. I trust that if I am guilty of doing so this time, I will be duly chastised.

HOWEVER …(I am now done prefacing, on to the actual content!)…

It seems to me that some people are trying to advance the argument that, since terrorists use unethical tactics, our military should too. The argument is most evident around the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. As if, because the terrorists commit such evil, nasty, horrific, etc. etc. actions against innocent people, that justifies treating them with a lowered ethical standard, or at least, not being overly concerned about potential mistreatment or ethical violations. There is no coherence in the ethical system that says that terrorists commit atrocities, so we ought to be able to, as well.

Before I go further, it is important to note that reports of the actual treatment of detainees in the “War on Terror” vary widely, from the most horrific pictures of torture and abuse to an almost idyllic luxury. It is not surprising to note which commentators are espousing which reports. The truth is probably somewhere in between the two extremes.

The point is, the actions of terrorists should not change the ethical standards by which we live, even to the point of affecting how the terrorists themselves are treated. This should not be a “lowest common denominator” world, in which our ethics are determined by the person who acts the worst. That’s an elementary school playground worldview, in which the phrase, “Well they started it” is regarded as logical reasoning. Such ethical deterioration makes it possible, for example, for people to say, “No, I don’t approve of the homosexual lifestyle, but at least I’m not Fred Phelps.” As if his twisted perspective sets the standard.

John Wesley, writing about slavery, wrote, “Notwithstanding ten thousand laws, right is right, and wrong is wrong still. There must still remain an essential difference between justice and injustice, cruelty and mercy.” He wrote that prosperity should never be attained at “the expense of virtue.” And neither should the elimination of terrorism be achieved (if that is even possible) at the expense of our own ethics. We may make our regulations about questioning detainees as vague as we want, we may interpret the Geneva Conventions as loosely as we want, we may play with terminology to spin the situation to our benefit all we want, but right is right and wrong is wrong still.

Christ calls his followers to a higher standard.

A part of this ethical system relates to the distinction between one’s attitude toward a large, anonymous group and one’s attitude toward individual people. As I continue to think about the “lowest common denominator” ethics prevalent in our society today, I’ll post again this week about that distinction.