Saturday, December 30, 2006

ANOTHER THOUGHT ABOUT----- 2007

It isn't often I write two consecutive posts about the same thing, but 2007 becoming reality is a big deal to me. [Read the last post for why.] So, one final word before the New Year.

Were it to come and go, which I personally doubt as per my last post, the year will find us experiencing both pain and pleasure. It is axiomatic that being a christian does not exempt one from pain or guarantee pleasure. Both are part and parcel of this altogether human experience called life. This is well understood by those of us who blog as evidenced by the struggles that we witnessed in the lives and families of the bloggers themselves. Struggles in ministry, [both finding and keeping a ministry] health,[we've prayed and continue to do so for our children, spouses, and friends who've gone through heart attacks, cancer, and, as my grandaughter, major surgery that will enable her , after eighteen years, to care for her own bodily needs as she eliminates waste materials from her body, an amazing story within itself.] and a myriad of other difficulties have revealed this.

Add to all this the pain we create with our words. [Many words have done so this past year.] We remember the little ditty that goes this way..."sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt me." A truer statement is..."sticks and stones CAN ONLY break my bones but words can wound a heart." I'm sure this is the reason the scriptures speak often of the care we are to give to the words we speak. [Or write for that matter.]

There is no reason to believe that 2007 will not hold it's share of pain and pleasure. I can, as can you, do my part in removing the pain I'm responsible for creating and bringing pleasure to others as I have power and opportunity. But with that understood, I have little power or control over most of the pain of life, my own or others.

Someone has said that christians are the living stones of the true Temple God is preparing for eternity. That preparation, while for eternity, is done here during our sojourn on this earth. Rugged and shapeless the stones are at the beginning. But the hammer and chisel do their work. And, because these stones are living, there is always pain associated with the process. Paul Billheimer, whom I was privilaged to know and have in our church before his death, wrote a book entitled "Don't Waste Your Sorrows." He articulates this reality as well as anyone I've ever heard.

When I write this way I'm always aware that, too many times, this life has been viewed/taught as a prison or even that our body is the prison of the soul, and to escape [die] is the only hope for pleasure. This, of course, is both sad and unscriptural. Jesus said "I've come that you might have life and life abundantly." But that "life" is not "bios" [life] but "Zoe." [Life] The difference is, one [bios] is simply the cataloging of events, [biography] while the other is an inner quality of life independent of any and all circumstances. It is that last definition of life Jesus has come to give and so few christians associate that kind of life with abundance. But when you've faced the pain...you begin to understand. This may be the reason the Church of the third world knows more of the power of God than does the western Church. It takes God's power to live life to it's fullest when the things around you are so painful.

The western mind-set is, all too often, ready to associate pain with the failure to get a raise, or a gift, or recognition for a job well done. To read of Rwanda and her 200,000 killed and 2 million displaced as our neice, who writes speeches for the present President of Rwanda, has recently reminded us, is the stuff with which pain is properly associated. This is not to minimize our own problems or losses, but it is to give pain a broader context. So, as we hear of the tragic episodes in Sudan's Darfur, we have yet another illustration of pain that adds to a new context. It is, without a doubt, the power of God that the third world Church is forced to rely upon which, I believe, is available to us when faced with our own pain, as we are truly convinced of His Purpose in the shaping of the His stones for eternity.

So it is because of the Purpose of God that we are able to rest in His providence. If His providence brings pleasure....we shall enjoy it. If His providence brings pain....we shall embrace it. But He does not work without pattern or design. Our life is to His Glory. This is why we can, with confidence, say "Good-by to the Year of Our Lord--2006" and say, with confidence, "Hello to the Year of Our Lord -- 2007."


No chance has brought this ill to me;
Tis God's own hand, so let it be.
He sees what I cannot see.

There is a need-be for every pain,
And one day He will make it plain
That earthly loss is heavenly gain.

Like a piece of tapestry
viewed from the back appears to be
Naught but threads tangled hopelessly.

While in the front He doth a picture share
And viewers are rewarded for His care,
Proving His skill and patience to be rare.

Thou, oh Lord, art the Workman, I the frame,
All for the Glory of Thy Wonderful Name,
Perfect thine own image through this pain

Based on Ps. 119:167-175 Author unknown

.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

THE YEAR OF OUR LORD...2007

The year of Our Lord...2007. It doesn't seem possible...at least to me. You see, I've believed for the past thirty years or so that Jesus was coming back before the end of each particular year. I readily admit that, at first, it was a fascination with both dispensationalism and the approaching end of one Millennium and the beginning of another. Later, as my dispensational views began to alter with study of the text, it became a more serious personal belief/longing that He would return that particular year and a conviction that He was going to do just that.

My Father-in-law, Fred Cherry, a Southern Baptist Evangelist, preached a message for years entitled "why I believe I'll be alive when Jesus comes." He died on October 29th 1970. It was devastating to his family and to me personally. Not just his death, that was difficult enough. But what about his message? Could he have been wrong to preach such a thing?

He always started that message with this statement. "Since you don't know when Jesus is returning and I don't know when I'm going to die, I have as much right to say I WILL be alive as you do to say I won't." having said that...he preached on his conviction that Jesus was coming soon. I have to say it infected me with that same belief and longing.

But what do you do with his message? At Fred's memorial service a long-time pastor and friend, Keith Wiggington, said these words. "Some of you will be wondering about Fred's message, 'Why I believe I'll be alive when Jesus comes.' [He must be a mind reader, he sure read mine.] Should Fred have preached it? I believe God is infinitely more pleased with a person who truly believes that he or she will be alive when Jesus comes, and says so, but dies, than He is with one who doesn't believe that, or care about His return and lives to see it." Nuff said. I returned to my assurance of His return each year.

So, the end of 2006 has come. I'm surprised. 2007 is beginning. It will not end without Jesus returning is my firm conviction, belief, desire. But, as one year ends and another begins, it truly is the Year of Our Lord...2007. May I say to all of you...Happy New Year...and get ready...

Paul Burleson

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A CHRISTIAN IS.....

There is a statement made on a blog I frequently read that introduces the comment section with this rather humble and simple statement,"Comments from people who know more than I." [Or words to that effect.] I like that. I like that attitude. I don't know the author of that blog personally, but from what I've read that he's written, I think he means it genuinely.

It is that conviction that causes me to use what others have written so often on this blog. There are just too many good things being said by people who know more than I and say it far better.

With that, you understand why I do it again. When you read what is to follow [I first saw it in the comment section on Paul Littleton's blog and researched it for myself on the internet] you will see a description written about Christians in the second century AD. What a statement it is. My prayer for all of us who name Jesus as Lord of our lives is that some degree of this kind of explanation of Christians will be the rediscovered testimony of life for us in the new year of 2007.

With that, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very wonderful New Year from the Burlesons.



From a letter to Diognetus, sometime in the second Century-


"Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.
Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body's hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

DROPPING OUT OF THE FUNDAMENTALIST DANCE

What follows is an essay that will disturb some, create a diatribe in others, be disagreed with by many, and, perhaps delight some, [even some who might not agree with all of it] and there may be those who may even think I'm dysfunctional [or worse] for giving a platform for it. All of you are welcome. I have to say, it's one of my favorite essays I've read on the inter-net. I recently ministered in a church when the author served in years past and I liked what I heard of him then and now. He is the I-Monk. I don't know him. I doubt I would agree with everything he holds to...or he me...but really enjoy his writings.

Give special attention to his statements about anger and negativism and meanness. Give special notice to his recogition that his expose, if you will, applies to both ultra-fundamentalism and ultra-liberalism. Don't get hung up on whether you disagree with his non-use of "inerrant" as a word or non-acceptance of the rapture or...well, maybe you will get hung-up. Whatever your personal reaction, obviously, I believe it needs to be heard by us all. For what it's worth...This printing of his essay isn't in-toto. But nuff said to get the picture. It is printed with his personally given permission. You'll find him at Internetmonk.com.

Paul B.



Dancing at the Fundamentalist Ball
A Special Essay by Michael Spencer

I am almost through with fundamentalism. Almost.
There are still some places where I want to hang on to my fundamentalism, but not many. After spending most of my life listening to my fundamentalist relation sing their song in the current cultural climate, I long ago quit singing with them. Eventually, I put down my hymnal and left the choir loft. Now I think it's time to leave the building altogether.

Of course, I realize some liberals will always think I am a fundamentalist because I believe in classically orthodox Christianity, the truthfulness of the Bible (rightly interpreted,) the resurrection of Jesus, miracles, prayer, the church and creation. The somewhat theologically astute will realize that stadiums full of non-fundamentalists believe all that stuff, but among that segment of American culture that finds any serious place given to faith fundamentalist, then I will always be mistaken for one. It's fine with me, even fun, especially around really angry liberals (who are rather fundamentalistic themselves.)

Among, fundamentalists, however, my departure has been noticed for some time, both theologically and culturally. I hold no place for young earth creationism. I do not read the King James Version, and I do not want others to do so. My description of scripture does not choose to use the word, "inerrant." I do not believe in the rapture. I abhor revivalism and its shallow, manipulative techniques. The four Spiritual laws are not the Gospel. Aisle walking is just plain wrong. I strongly suspect that most of what is on the shelves of Christian bookstores is somewhere between shallow and heretical. Women in ministry is good Bible as far as I am concerned. I avoid TBN like a fundamentalist avoids MTV. I like a whole bunch of Roman Catholics. Sometimes, I don't pray over my food. (Actually, I pray one prayer on January 1st for the whole year, but that's another column.)

On the cultural front, I consider the temperate use of alcohol to be harmless, if not mildly virtuous. (Alert Baptists: Psalms 4:7, 104:15. Read it first before you do anything rash.) I wish I danced and intend for my children to do so. I read a variety of books that fundamentalists consider occultic, worldly and dangerous. I listen to music ranging from Led Zeppelin to the Beatles to Dave Mathews. I find Contemporary Christian music to be, in the main, embarrassing. (With a few significant exceptions.) I love movies and the language doesn't bother me, though I certainly don't want to talk that way. I have raised my children in the Christian faith, but I have not sheltered them from bad culture, bad language or flawed people. I have not taught my children that it impresses God if you dress nicely for church, wear a WWJD bracelet or listen to the Christian radio station. I've actually told them God is great and loving enough to speak through any medium he desires. I bought my son three Harry Potter books. I love Halloween.

This could go on, but I would belabor, bore and give my critics ammunition. I left the Fundamentalist ranch a long time ago. Every so often, I look back from my new view up in the hills and think of the good times, the good friends and the good truth, but I am not raising my kids there, and I am not going back.

And here is the main reason I have decided to move on. (There are many, for you e-mailers.) I don't think Jesus was a mean, negative person who viewed life as a conspiracy. I think Jesus was a positive, gracious person who thought God was into everything, which was a matter of great rejoicing. I have decided Jesus was not a fundamentalist, and so I am not going to be either.

First, the mean part. I know being mean doesn't have a thing to do with anything, but fundamentalists are mean a lot of the time, and they seem to think this is somehow OK. Now when it's a Muslim fundamentalist being mean we see this rather easily. I know that Christian fundamentalists don't blow things up or cheer those who do, but we are talking only about a matter of degree.

The best example of this is the reaction of fundamentalists to Hollywood. A few years ago, Tinseltown put out a perfectly horrible little movie called "The Last Temptation of Christ." The particular problems with this piece of cinema aren't really germane here, but let's just say that a nation that fills the theaters for "American Pie II" and "Scary Movie" was not going to be excited about this entertainment. It was a stinker, of the highest order. Yet, fundamentalists mounted a campaign of protest, spleen-venting, tantrum-throwing and name calling that has yet to be matched. Just plain, grit-your-teeth, grind-your-jaw, get-in-your-face-and-spit mean and mad. The over-reaction of fundamentalists dignified this movie a thousand times more than it deserved by making it a victim of censorship.

The meanness that really bothers me is that reserved for those opponents of fundamentalism who simply disagree with them over one of their favorite topics. People who like Harry Potter. Or who endorse women in ministry or reject young earth creationism. Or happen to want alcohol served in restaurants. Hey- these are issues on which real Christians disagree, but fundamentalists chew on these issues with all the civility of a night at WWF Raw. I've not just seen this meanness, I've experienced it and, unfortunately, I've dished it out.

Don't get me wrong- in the public arena, it's sometimes give as good as you get, and some of those who want to take over our culture and reshape it into their own image are angry, mean and even vicious. But tough-mindedness and meanness are two different things. I'm happy to play hardball, and I want to win the culture war, but I would like to leave the meanness to someone else.

Then there's negativity. By this I mean an overall approach to life as a series of prohibitions and restrictions. Now I recognize that there are plenty of negatives in the Bible, and lots of rules against various things of varying significance. Take the Ten Commandments. Quite a few "Thou shalt not's" in there. But the first and greatest commandment, the commandment that dominates and sets the tone, is to love God with all we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The relationship between these commandments is important here: it is the positive that controls the negative. You shall not commit adultery is controlled by loving God, neighbor and self rightly. The reverse- to love God by what we do NOT do- is only true in a limited sense, but don't try and tell that to your fundamentalist friends.

Fundamentalists love God by not doing what the larger culture does, by not sinning, by not being worldly, by not indulging temptation. If you haven't noticed, the negative way is simpler, easier to define and far more likely to be controlled by an authority figure who eliminates all the questions and gray areas. Trusting people to love God and do as they please scares fundamentalists to death.

This negative approach is generously applied to young people, who thrive on being told what NOT to do, and who adults like to believe can be controlled. Eventually, however, the negative approach begins to force a certain amount of cognitive dissonance, and a choice must be made on how to maintain the superiority of the negative commands over the positive. There is no one more perplexed than a thoughtful fundamentalist, who realizes that there really is no virtue in not dancing, but whose believing community insists that not dancing is an article of faith.

This, by the way, is why fundamentalists never produce any real art, and why their ventures into film and music are so predictably awful. Their conception of art is so dominated by the negative approach, that characters can't be real human beings and lyrics can't be real poetry. The whole realm of the imagination and the appreciation of beauty have to be controlled by what they can not represent and how things are not to be expressed. It's no wonder that the ranks of real artists trying to exist in fundamentalism resembles a community of abused and neglected refugees.

I believe scripture teaches that negativity is no more able to create true virtue than a fence is able to grow a crop. In fact, it was Jesus who said that a house swept clean of seven demons was once again ripe for the same, or even worse, occupants. I have discovered that loving God, neighbor and self is far more than the accumulated negative commands of my fundamentalist upbringing. It is a LOT more challenging than keeping the rules. It is so difficult, that transformation by God himself is my only hope.

Finally, the conspiratorial mindset. Fundamentalism is awash with conspiracy theories. The devil, the Illuminati, the CFR, the World Council of Churches, the NEA, Satanists, New Agers, The Networks, Procter and Gamble, Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the relatives of Bill Clinton...well, that one has some interesting possibilities. Anyway, as someone said, it's not just a conspiracy, it's a LIFESTYLE.

Prominent in this kind of thinking is the belief that participating in any aspect of the larger culture exposes one to forces posed to drag the victim into witchcraft and demon possession. Eric Rigney's endorsement of the Harry Potter books has yielded message after message warning that the books are a gateway into bondage to occultic powers. Where is a single shred of evidence that Harry Potter is any more harmful than Snow White or the tales of King Arthur? The predictability of fundamentalist conspiracy theories have become downright annoying.

The conspiratorial prophets- Warnke, Hunt, Van Impe, Lindsey, Maddux, et al- exert a remarkable amount of unquestioned control in the fundamentalist community. How can so many intelligent people see conspiracies in everything, yet never question themselves or their sources at all? It is the same impulse that turned hysterical teenagers into witches in Salem, and wound up hanging the innocent.

It is here that fundamentalism shows such a remarkable difference from the Bible. While taking the reality of evil totally seriously, Holy Scripture never falls to the level of seeing conspiracies as the explanations for events that are hard to understand or impossible to control. A sovereign God, fallen angels and sinful men are the full extent of the Bible's conspiracy theory. The early Christians did not waste their time teaching about Roman or pagan conspiracies, but simply lived and worshipped faithfully. It was not a mistake that the apostle Paul counseled believers to avoid myths, fables, and gossip.

Yet fundamentalists don't avoid this way of thinking, they absolutely revel in seeing evil conspiracies at work in everything. So prevalent are conspiracies as the explanation for events, that a kind of concrete pessimism permeates fundamentalism, leaving Christians to believe that nothing is as it seems and only a conspiracy that really explain life, culture and history. One has to salute those in the fundamentalist community who have defied this dark way of looking at the world and have gone out into the world to do good.

As I said earlier, I do not see any of these trends in Jesus. Instead, I see grace, love and faith, lived out in bringing the Kingdom of God into the world through compassion, servanthood and sacrifice. I am sure that Jesus might be called a theological fundamentalist by some, but does anyone really see the spirit of modern fundamentalism in Jesus?
My departure from fundamentalism will be impossible to explain to fundamentalists. To them, to depart from the community in any way is to call into question one's basic Christian commitment. They are convinced that if one is in touch with God, he or she will agree with them and stand with them in things large and small. It is sadly common among fundamentalists to respond to any deviation from their worldview with an invitation to pray and listen to God more closely, as if God spoke each of their beliefs directly into their ears. But I am at peace with this, and I am glad that my children will not grow up, as I did, believing all Catholics were going to hell, anyone who drank was lost, dancing was evil, movies and secular music were of the devil, and, of course, we and only we, were right.

I missed my prom, because my church told me it was evil to go. Other than a weak moment in the 8th grade, I've never been to a dance. I'd love to say that once I've renounced my fundamentalism, I'll be the first one out on the dance floor, but its not that easy. It will take a lifetime to get over the narrow mindset of fundamentalism. But if you stop by the nursing home around, say 2033, that will be me turning circles in the wheelchair, looking for a partner.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I WONDER WHY?

I've been wondering...

WHY...there is a need to limit a Private Prayer Language in Missionaries [so that no one can be appointed if they have one or believe it's possible to have one] when there has never been a removal of a missionary for using a PPL?

WHY...there is a need for guarding the mission field from Pentecostal practices among missionaries when there has been no documentation of said Pentecostal practices except where the former policies against tongues/pentecostal teachings corrected it?

WHY...there needs to be a refusal to accept the immersion of a missionary candidate as valid when the SBC church that had to vote to recommend said candidate, upon examination when they joined that local church, believed it was valid?

WHY...some insist that Wade Burleson, an IMB Trustee, is wrong to use a caveat when agreeing to the BF@M, thereby reducing said BF@M, [in their opinion] but then insist it is right to require missionaries to not practice a PPL, thereby adding to the BF@M if, in fact, the BF@M is the absolute standard for employees?

WHY...some insist Trustees should have the same standard as missionaries,[the BF@M-absolute-with no caveats] but do not hold said Trustees to other standards such as weight?

WHY...an IMB/BOT has a greater ability to monitor/guide mission field activities as to methods, procedures, and practices, thereby effectively shutting the door on their input and ideas, than does the Administration in the states and on the field and Missionaries that make up the said mission field personnel?

WHY...a seminary chapel message would be thought inappropriate and subsequently not permitted on electronic media when the Seminary Chapel has always been used to present ideas that are creative, challenging, and even controversial and debateable?

[Subjects I've heard from that same chapel pulpit are Calvinism, (both sides) filling of the Spirit,(Both sides-too pentecostal for some/too baptistic for some) Spiritual Gifts, open/closed communion, not being a professional begger as a pastor by never buying lunch for church members and requesting a 'ministerial discount' in a department store. (That last was a message I preached in SWBTS chapel)
Add to that list things like how wrong certain professors are for their view of scripture/doctrines/SBC policies. It has always been a place where people spoke their convictions even if I disagreed with them.]

Finally, WHY...I'm now viewed with suspicion as not being a real Baptist because of my personal view on baptism, [accepting the immersion of a believer when it was as a testimony of their union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection even if done by other hands than a Southern Baptist designated baptizer] the Lord's supper, [anyone who has been converted and properly identified as such] believing the gifts continue today, [though I personally do not have nor desire the tongues gift whatever that is] am personally a 5-point Calvinist, [though I hate being PRIMARILY identified with a system that has a name associated with it such as John Calvin..... or Baptist..... and never make Calvinism or being a Baptist my message when preaching] enjoy a glass of wine periodically when celebrating a special occasion with my wife, [though I personally do not touch it in the presence of young believers nor when in the work of ministry in a local church following Paul's admonition that it is better to keep freedom under control when around others that may be young in the faith] and all of these things have been true of my theology and walk FOR MANY YEARS. Why the suspicion that I may not be a REAL baptist? I've not changed. Has someone else's attempt at controlling the definition of baptist become the issue we're facing?

I WONDER WHY?

Paul Burleson

Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Culture Evil ?

I've been reading various blogs and listening to internet sermons and am finding so many in SBC life who are... A) attacking culture as evil B) condemning those who disagree on some lesser truths as "adopting culture" C)trying to be relevant to our culture D) wanting to change our culture E) desiring to get the gospel in terms that will speak to our culture.

With all this being advocated about our culture, I decided I needed to know what our culture really is. After all, how can you call it evil, believe someone is adopting it, going to change it, be relevant to it, if we don't know what the "it" is? Following is an attempt on the part of one to describe the "American Culture. [I'm printing the body of an e-mail I received without the name of the sender and the sender is not the author of this description.] Right or wrong here is what he said...

By the way, Webster's dictionary defines culture as..."The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group."



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
If you're American...

You believe deep down in the First Amendment, guaranteed by the government and perhaps by God.
You're familiar with David Letterman, Mary Tyler Moore, Saturday Night Live, Bewitched, the Flintstones, Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Donald Duck, the Fonz, Archie Bunker, Star Trek, the Honeymooners, the Addams Family, the Three Stooges, and Beetle Bailey.
You know how baseball, basketball, and American football are played. If you're male, you can argue intricate points about their rules. On the other hand (and unless you're under about 20), you don't care that much for soccer.
You count yourself fortunate if you get three weeks of vacation a year.

If you died tonight...

You're fairly likely to believe in God; if not, you've certainly been approached by people asking whether you know that you're going to Heaven.
You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC etc. as cheap food.
You probably own a telephone and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine. You don't kill your own food. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.
You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food.
A bathroom may not have a bathtub in it, but it certainly has a toilet.
It seems natural to you that the telephone system, railroads, auto manufacturers, airlines, and power companies are privately run; indeed, you can hardly picture things working differently.
You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine.
The train system, by contrast, isn't very good. Trains don't go any faster than cars; you're better off taking a plane.
You find a two-party system natural. You expect the politicians of both parties to be responsive to business, strong on defense, and concerned with the middle class. You find parliamentary systems (such as Italy's) inefficient and comic.
You don't expect to hear socialism seriously defended. Communism, fuhgeddaboudit.
Between "black" and "white" there are no other races. Someone with one black and one white parent looks black to you.
You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.
You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.
You'd respect someone who speaks French, German, or Japanese-- but you very likely don't yourself speak them well enough to communicate with a monolingual foreigner. You're a bit more ambivalent about Spanish; you think the schools should teach kids English. It's not all that necessary to learn foreign languages anyway. You can travel the continent using nothing but English-- and get by pretty well in the rest of the world, too.
You think a tax level of 30% is scandalously high.
School is free through high school (at least, it's an option, even if you went to private school); college isn't, unless you get a scholarship.
College is (normally, and excluding graduate study) four years long.

Everybody knows that...

Mustard comes in jars. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in plastic jugs or cardboard boxes, and occasionally in bottles.
The date comes second: 11/22/63. (And you know what happened on that date.)
The decimal point is a dot. Certainly not a comma.
A billion is a thousand times a million.
World War II was a just war, and (granted all the suffering of course) ended all right. It was a time when the country came together and did what was right. And instead of insisting on vengeance, the US very generously rebuilt Europe instead, with the Marshall Plan.
You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Getting married by a judge is an option, but not a requirement; most marriages happen in church. You have a best man and a maid or matron of honor at the wedding-- a friend or a sibling. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time.
If a man has sex with another man, he's a homosexual.
Once you're introduced to someone (well, besides the President and other lofty figures), you can call them by their first name.
If you're a woman, you don't go to the beach topless.
A hotel room has a private bath.
You'd rather a film be subtitled than dubbed (if you go to foreign films at all).
You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes.
If a politican has been cheating on his wife, you would question his ability to govern.
Just about any store will take your credit card.
A company can fire just about anybody it wants, unless it discriminates by doing so.
You like your bacon crisp (unless it's Canadian bacon, of course).
Labor Day is in the fall.

Contributions to world civilization...

You've probably seen Star Wars, ET, Home Alone, Casablanca, and Snow White. If you're under forty, add Blazing Saddles, Terminator, Jaws, and 2001; otherwise, add Gone with the Wind, A Night at the Opera, Psycho, and Citizen Kane.
You know the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt. If not, you know Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Tony Bennett, and Kate Smith.
You count on excellent medical treatment. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.
You went over US history, and some European, in school, Not much Russian, Chinese, or Latin American. You couldn't name ten US interventions in Latin America.
You expect the military to fight wars, not get involved in politics. You may not be able to name the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation.
You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy.
You still measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons.
You are not a farmer.
Comics basically come in two varieties: newspaper comics and magazines; the latter pretty much all feature superheroes.
The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Certainly not, say, authors.
You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.
You think of Canada as a pleasant, peaceful, but rather dull country, which has suddenly developed an inexplicable problem in Qu├ębec. You probably couldn't explain why the Canadians didn't join the other British colonies in rebelling against King George.
You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small car.
The police are armed, but not with submachine guns.
If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't improve her looks.
The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.
The nationality people most often make jokes about is the Poles.
There's parts of the city you definitely want to avoid at night.
Outside the Beltway
You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened to enough in Washington.
You wouldn't expect both inflation and unemployment to be very high (say, over 15%) at the same time.
You don't care very much what family someone comes from.
The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.
You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments. It's likely you don't see that many plays, either.
Christmas is in the winter. Unless you're Jewish, you spend it with your family, give presents, and put up a tree.
You may think the church is too powerful, or the state is; but you are used to not having a state church and don't think that it would be a good idea.
You'd be hard pressed to name the capitals or the leaders of all the nations of Europe.
You aren't familiar with Mafalda, Lucky Luke, Corto Maltese, Milo Manara, Guido Crepax, Gotlib, or Moebius.
You've left a message at the beep.
Taxis are generally operated by foreigners, who are often deplorably ignorant about the city.
You are distrustful of welfare and unemployment payments-- you think people should earn a living and not take handouts. But you would not be in favor of eliminating Social Security and Medicare.
If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a bachelor's first.
There sure are a lot of lawyers.

Space and time...

If you have an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're five minutes late, and apologize profusely if it's ten minutes. An hour late is almost inexcusable.
If you're talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about two feet.
About the only things you expect to bargain for are houses, cars, and antiques. Haggling is largely a matter of finding the hidden point that's the buyer's minimum.
Once you're past college, you very rarely simply show up at someone's place. People have to invite each other over-- especially if a meal is involved.
When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, but it's only good business to 'play hardball'. Some foreigners pay excessive attention to status, or don't say what they mean, and that's exasperating.
If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than an hour or so.


If this is our culture...is it evil? [We can debate the accuracy of the content at another time.] That's the first question I'd like to ask someone. And if the answer is yes...explain why please.

Paul Burleson