Category Archives: Culture

Why the Blood?

I was asked to preach this week at the North Hills Community Baptist Church as our Pastor was away for the weekend.  The topic selected was atonement and repentance.  Why is it that Christians, in our modern society, are still talking about sacrifice?  Why are we still talking about blood?

Take a listen…

Sermon content credit goes to Dr. Ergun Caner from whom I borrowed a great inspiration for this sermon.  Dr. Caner is the former President of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Brewton-Parker College in Georgia.

We asked for help…they said no…

Ever had one of those times when you don’t know how we survived without cell phones and GPS systems? When the open road really mean that you were on your own and that if your car broke down, dad had to walk to the nearest “service station?” Remember those days? Me either… those days are long past. Now we have 24-hour roadside assistance, emergency call boxes and companies that will come “pick you up” if you have a problem…well, almost.

That’s where the story of the Mother’s Day Odyssey begins…actually no, it begins on Friday. The wife and I were headed over to Sandusky, Ohio (from Pittsburgh) for a little weekend away…celebrating the Spring this way has become a tradition in our family. Reservations were made in the dead of Winter during one of the coldest weeks on record; little did we know that the weekend we chose to visit Kalahari Indoor Water Park would be the warmest Spring weather we’d seen in decades. We’d just bought a used SUV and I wanted to drive it to “stretch it out,”… see what it would do on the road. Being the sensible one, my wife said we should take our 2011 Honda Odyssey…because it is the “reliable” car. We should have known…

Dannyboys
Danny Boy’s Italian Eatery…GREAT pizza and service. Go see ’em

Weekend went great, kids had fun, parents had fun, got a compltementary upgrade (thanks, Kalahari)…we even found a new favorite place to eat over in Sandusky. (For the Record: Danny Boys)

Go get a pie there if you are in the area…if not…drive, totally worth it. After a wonderful Mother’s Day late-lunch, we sent the kids to the potty, loaded the van and were on our way…for about 20 minutes. That’s when the “check engine” light came on…within the construction area…with nowhere to pull over. Kerri checked the manual, flashing code said it is an “emissions system failure.” Couple miles down the road we were finally able to pull over and shut the car off. I checked the gas cap, did the cursory walk around the car…not sure what I was looking for but I felt better about it… Flashing lights didn’t come back on when we restarted so I thought we’d be ready to hit the road…get it checked-out when we get home. Not so fast…

I hit the accelerator and … well, everything went to crap. The engine shuddered like it was on a fault line, dashboard lit up like a Christmas Tree…and there we were. We broke down…on the side of I-80, the Ohio Turnpike.

Time to call the ANPAC roadside assistance number. That’s why we have that right? We called and attempted to describe our location. I told the lady we were just outside of Middleburg Heights, east of Sandusky…mile marker 155 east bound…

ANPAC person: “Ok, I found a service provider in Freemont, Ohio.”

I pull start looking at the map on my iPhone…THAT’S ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATE

Me: “Ok, let’s try this…I’M IN CLEVELAND”

ANPAC person: “Oh, ok, do you know where in Cleveland you’d like to have the car towed”

Me: “No, are you kidding? I don’t know any service providers here”

Looking at my iPhone, I Googled “Honda Dealerships near me”

Me: “Ok, I found a Honda Dealership in Middleburg Heights, can they tow me there?”

ANPAC person: “Yes, that looks like it is within your 10-mile limit”

Me: “Great, please send the tow truck”

ANPAC person:  “Ok, you’ll be receiving a call from the towing company”

30 minutes later… I call ANPAC back

Me: “Hey, we still haven’t gotten a call from the towing company”

ANPAC person: “Yes, they are still trying to find a provider”

Me: “Ok”

10 minutes later… phone rings; It’s ANPAC…

“We found a provider in Middleburg Heights, they will be calling you shortly.”

Me: “Thank you”

See, what I now know is that I’m going to have a tow truck come take the van to the dealership, but there’s not room for a family of four in a tow truck. I have no way to get to a rental car office…Ooh!…brilliant idea…I’ll call Enterprise. They will come pick you up

After going through their menu I finally get Enterprise’s 24-hour roadside assistance on the line. Mind you, NOBODY is open on Sunday afternoon. Especially on Mother’s day. I get Enterprise and the lady on the line was very nice, made a reservation and everything, then attempted to transfer me to the Enterprise counter at the airport…because…Sunday. They are open…and this is where the real fun begins.

The phone rings multiple times and I finally get “Roosevelt.”

Me: “Roosevelt, hey buddy, I’m hoping you can help me out, I was just on the phone with your roadside assistance folks and have a new reservation…just need somebody to come pick us up.”

Roosevelt: “Ok, I have to transfer you to one of my bosses…hold on”

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring… no answer…

Call back: “Enterprise, this is Roosevelt”

Me: “Hey Roosevelt, I just spoke to you a minute ago, nobody answered”

Roosevelt: “Ok, I’ll try again…

Me: “…Wa..”

Roosevelt: “…hold on”

Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ring… no answer…

Call back: “Enterprise, this is Roosevelt”

Me: “Hey Roosevelt, it’s me again…look, um nobody is answering that phone over there…

Roosevelt: “Want me to try it again?”

Me: “No…Hey, Roosevelt, what’s your role there?”

Roosevelt: “Oh, I’m just a trainee…Just answering the phone, man”

Me: “Ok, well here’s what I want you to do, put me on hold and walk out to where your bosses are and ask them to pick up the phone”

Roosevelt: “Ok…I’ll do that…Hold on”

Silence…

“Enterprise Rent-a-Car, this is Nick”

Me: “Hey Nick, my name is Ryan, I’m stuck on the side of the interstate here right around the corner from you and I need a pick up”

Nick: “I’m sorry, I can’t do that”

Me: “What? What do you mean you can’t do that?”

Nick: “Yeah man, we’re really short-staffed here and we don’t do the pickups here at the Airport”

Me: “Your corporate slogan is ‘We’ll pick you up”

Nick: “I know, the Airport is the exception”

Me: “Nick, I’m not sure you’re understanding the situation here. My car has broken down on the side of the interstate, I have a wife and two kids here with me and a tow truck on the way. I can’t put a family of four in that tow truck, so three of us are going to be standing on the side of the road here in a few minutes if we can’t find someone to help us out… are you going to help us out?”

Nick: “I’m sorry, man, but I just don’t have the extra staff”

Me: “Well don’t you have a trainee, intern, someone with a drivers license? SOMEBODY who can hop into a car? We are literally 5 minutes away from you”

Nick: “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do..but if you can get a ride and to the counter, I’ll be happy to help you out”

Me: “no, thanks”

What I really wanted to say was “Nick, you REALLY don’t want me to show up at your counter…”

If I could have done that really cool throat-choke Jedi maneuver Darth Vader used in Star Wars…I totally would have used that over the phone...

Now what do I do? I’m looking at the “Emergency *-9-9-0” sign…the wife finally calls…It’s an emergency. Not a minute later, the tow truck shows up… and the Ohio State Police are on their way.

I want to state for the record here that I don’t believe this to have been an emergency situation. Had we been able to reach one of our Cleveland-based friends, or had the company who advertises that they will pick you up…had actually lived-up to that claim this wouldn’t have been such an ordeal.

Fortunately we were dispatched a great tow truck driver (John) who stayed patiently with us until the Trooper arrived. She was very nice and great with the kids. She followed the tow truck with the family to Sunnyside Honda, but had to leave us there. She can’t venture too far off the Turnpike…and that we understood. John took me to the Airport rental counters (on his own, didn’t have to do that) to get the car.

We ended up renting an “economy” car from Thrify…a Chevrolet Spark. Cute little overgrown go-kart that it was…We stuffed our family in that puppy and drove home. I swear, a Smart Car would have thought we were tiny. We got passed by a Prius and the wife asked “when did they start making those so big?”

You want to know how to succeed in life?

Here’s how to succeed in life: when you have an opportunity to make a difference…you make a difference. Damn the rules, you make a difference in someone’s life.

John made a difference for us. I called his boss at Rich’s Towing on Monday morning to praise his efforts. Trooper Cagey made a difference for us…yeah, I know she was just doing her job…but her effort and demeanor were amazing. Jennifer at the Thrifty counter made a difference for us.

Enterprise…Nick…whoever you are. You did not. You failed. You had a chance to make a difference and you utterly and completely failed. I can never wish evil on anyone…so I hope you never, ever find yourself in the situation I found myself in on Sunday afternoon. As a husband and a father, you feel helpless, exposed and weak. You can’t protect or provide, and that is failure. Failure for me…and ultimately failure for you.

America’s Lack of Class

There is a story out of Port Orange, Florida this morning where an elderly man was assaulted in Applebees by a 26-year-old patron. What did he do to earn that beating?  He asked the young man to stop yelling profanities in a family restaurant.

Two weeks ago, Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston stood on a table in the student union and repeated an obscenity. The phrase is part of an internet meme (which I will not repeat or link to here), started as a prank but rapidly spread because people apparently think it is funny to recite profanity on live television.

So this is a thing now… Stand behind a reporter doing a live report and scream obscenities so that your face can be on television. It is not limited to reporters and obscenities either. The PGA is undergoing a similar problem where fans shout random, often idiotic, phrases as a golfer strikes the ball.

So this is a thing now… Shout inane phrases so your voice can be heard on television. It is not limited to voices either. Streakers and over-served fans at sporting events have always tried to get attention by running out onto the field of play.

Individuals desperate for attention do things that previous generations would not have done. Why? Because previous generations would not have conducted themselves in such a manner. Why? Because they had class.

What is “class” though? What does it mean to conduct yourself with “class” and “dignity?” Class, according to the dictionary definition (of the adjective) is “showing stylish excellence.” Synonyms include: classy, decent, gracious, respectable, and noble. What do these terms remind you of? Whom do these remind you of?

When I think of class and dignity, my mind goes to a number of great people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Joe Dimaggio, Pat Summit, Doug Williams, John F. Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charlton Heston, Meryl Streep, Mariano Rivera and James Earl Jones.  What’s the one common theme surrounding Derek Jeter’s “farewell tour?”  Class, Dignity and Respect.

 

“Class” transcends all boundaries. Race, sex, socio-economic, political stance…even international. The larger point is that to conduct oneself with class and dignity is a personal decision, and one of training.

The newest generations, beginning with my own, have lost what it means to have and to show class.  How else would people like Daniel Tosh and Tucker Max make millions of dollars making a mockery of of America’s temperate culture? That’s why many people are excusing (or diminishing) what Winston said/did as “well, that what his generation does.”  While that may be true, it is a sad state of affairs.

#1 rule in life is this: Show some class.

Wives and Canoes…

This thread of comments from over at Deadspin is absolutely fantastic!  It was posted in response to Bill Murray’s speech at some random guy’s bachelor party in Charleston, SC.  …enjoy
Yesterday 9:13am
VeryWell>
Drew Magary

He’s correct about the traveling together bit- totally revealing. Paddling a two person canoe is a cheaper way to stress test a budding romance, though.

 

Woodhouse>VeryWell

There’s a reason why residents of Kauai, Hawaii refer to two-person kayaks as “divorce canoes”

 

VeryWell>Woodhouse

Wouldn’t that be something- if there was less divorce amongst Hawaiians because of outriggers.

YoHendri>VeryWell

I was in a two person kayak down in Turks & Caicos with my wife for about 27 seconds before I turned to her and asked her politely to get the f*** out.

pseudonymous.bosh>YoHendri

I did a two-person kayak with my wife once. Once.

Ten years later we did a kayak tour with our young sons, so she took a double with one son and I took a double with the other. Her boat was a constant catastrophe; our boat ride was smooth, easy, and painless. But even I was not stupid enough to point out the clear common factor between the two nightmare kayak rides…

 

Mok, the Magic Man>Woodhouse

There’s also a joke about tandem bicycles coming with divorce papers. Last week I saw a three-person tandem. Could you imagine having to divorce your partner and disown your child?

Rape @ State…

The New York Times…

A Star Player Accused, and a Flawed Rape Investigation

By WALT BOGDANICH

Tallahassee, Fla. — Early on the morning of Dec. 7, 2012, a freshman at Florida State University reported that she had been raped by a stranger somewhere off campus after a night of drinking at a popular Tallahassee bar called Potbelly’s.

As she gave her account to the police, several bruises began to appear, indicating recent trauma. Tests would later find semen on her underwear.

For nearly a year, the events of that evening remained a well-kept secret until the woman’s allegations burst into the open, roiling the university and threatening a prized asset: Jameis Winston, one of the marquee names of college football.

Three weeks after Mr. Winston was publicly identified as the suspect, the storm had passed. The local prosecutor announced that he lacked the evidence to charge Mr. Winston with rape. The quarterback would go on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Florida State to the national championship.

After a Florida State student accused quarterback Jameis Winston of rape, the police did not interview him or obtain his DNA. Phil Sears/Associated Press

In his announcement, the prosecutor, William N. Meggs,

State Attorney Willie Meggs
State Attorney Willie Meggs

acknowledged a number of shortcomings in the police investigation. In fact, an examination by The New York Times has found that there was virtually no investigation at all, either by the police or the university.

The police did not follow the obvious leads that would have quickly identified the suspect as well as witnesses, one of whom videotaped part of the sexual encounter. After the accuser identified Mr. Winston as her assailant, the police did not even attempt to interview him for nearly two weeks and never obtained his DNA.

Continue at NYT.com…

Murphy Was Right, Francesa/Esiason…not so much

This week it was announced that the New York Mets’ second baseman, Daniel Murphy would be taking a “few days off” in Paternity Leave.  Murphy’s wife, Victoria, gave birth to their first child on March 31st.  This time off coincided with the Mets’ opening day, and predictably the knucklehead fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

Yes, we get it, you think “Paternity Leave” is a joke.  Mike Francesa, FrancesaWFAN sports radio talk show host took to the airwaves to fan the flames and called-out Murphy:

I don’t know why you need three days off, I’m going to be honest. You see the birth and you get back. What do you do in the first couple days? Maybe you take care of the other kids. Well, you gotta have someone to do that if you’re a Major League Baseball player. I’m sorry, but you do. Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple days, you know that.

Francesa continued…

What are you going to do? I mean you are going to sit there and look at your wife in a hospital bed for two days? Your wife doesn’t need your help the first couple of days; you know that you’re not doing much the first couple days with the baby that was just born.

Boomer Esiason got in on the action as well inferring that Murphy’s Esiasonwife should have had a c-section before the season so that Murphy could have been present for opening day.  Esiason has since back-tracked from those comments, but the former Jets quarterback never backed away from his opinion that players should not miss games after a child is born.

The testosterone-charged machismo world of the American male puts pressure on the husband/father to abandon his family and get back to work.  Francesa framed his criticism around the “you’re a Major League Baseball player” status of Murphy and that it was more important for the player to be in New York with his team than in Jacksonville with his family.

Maybe Francesa is a good husband/father, I don’t know the man, but his comments indicate that he is of the “the wife raises the children and I bring home a paycheck” crowd.  Well good for Mr. Francesa, but that’s not how healthy marriages work.  The husband is there to serve his family, in whatever way is necessary.  If that means taking a couple days off work to care for the family, then that’s what you do.

Child birth is traumatic for a woman’s body, frankly, I don’t know how they do it.  It has been often said that if men bore the burden of childbirth, the human race would be extinct…and I COMPLETELY AGREE.  I watched it, twice, it ain’t pretty.  As a husband and father, your entire world changes at the very moment the child emerges from its mother.  You are now responsible for more than just yourself.  You now have a family to provide for, to protect, and now to serve.

In the moments after birth, your wife is going to be a wreck.  YOU have to run interference.  You have to make sure the hospital room door is closed until your wife is ready for people to see her.  You have to tell people “no.”  …yes, even your wife’s mother.  No easy task, but it is yours.

So what does the husband/father do in that first week when the baby is born?  Whatever the mother/wife needs, that’s what.  If that means fending off the in-laws/neighbors/friends from coming over, so be it.  If that means cooking/cleaning/laundry/etc…then so be it.

What Daniel Murphy did was the honorable thing to do.  Take a couple of days to care for your family and then get back to work.  Certainly the job of a baseball player is less important than that of a husband.  It is a very long season, Mets fans.  Murphy missed two games.  He is modeling what being a good husband and father should be, and for that he should be celebrated, not denigrated.

Old Testament Law…What did that say?

Within the context of the Old Testament covenants and New Testament understandings, there comes a conflict when Gentiles and Christian Jews attempt to discern whether the Levitical and Deuteronical laws apply in the new faith and new covenant through Jesus Christ.  It is this conflict that J. Daniel Hays attempts to resolve in his essay “Applying the Old Testament Law Today.”  Hays points out (correctly) that the inter-weaving of ceremonial, civil, and moral laws prohibit an outright categorization based on locale of the scripture.  Hays puts forth a suggested new approach, which he calls “principlism” to help Christians ascertain which elements of the Law pertain to modern life.

The Traditional Approach & Principlism

In his essay, Hays summarizes what he refers to as a “traditional approach” as a categorization of the 613 laws based on whether or not the law falls into one of the three areas listed above.  The problem herein lies with some laws that might bridge that gap.  Hays references Exodus 20:8 in which the Lord declares to “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” (NIV)  The question is whether or not this law is ceremonial or moral.  As a part of the Ten Commandments, many believe this to be a universal, moral law.  If that is the case then, most Christians are in violation of this law.

In addition to verses that bridge gaps in the Old Testament law, Hayes argues that when using a traditional approach to interpreting the law and applying it to our modern world, we omit several factors that include the Law’s place within the narrative of the Old Testament and the theological context of the Law.  When we interpret the law for our purposes, we must remember that these legal, ceremonial and moral laws were given to a nation that was to be a theocracy.  Secular governmental laws override many of the edicts given by God within the text of the Pentateuch.

Hays’ “principlism” then is a point of view that, while intriguing, has its own strengths and weaknesses.  In strength, it places much more emphasis on the intent of the law (principle), than on the letter of the law.  Whereby one might traditionally say that most of the Law would not have application today, through “principlism” we can find meaning in the Law and apply it to our lives.  In weakness, what Hays has done is open the text up to a myriad of interpretations by various theologians who could potentially have a myriad of views on these topics.  Hays does put forth a five-step approach to accomplishing this task; even still there may be too wide an opening for liberal interpretation when it comes to concrete teachings from God.

New Understanding

I have always had a love-hate relationship with the Mosaic Law as a Christian; not knowing how to interpret the verses in the New Testament that pertain to whether or not the Law should be obeyed.  It is possible, however, that given the context of the time in which the New Testament writers were authoring scripture one might offer forbearance to the vague approach to the Law.  Seeing that the Jewish leadership had been segmented into multiple groups (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc.) who all interpreted their own law very differently, it is easy to understand that the writers of the New Testament didn’t address the Law in specificity but rather in more vague terms.

In one particular instance, Peter is given a vision from Heaven in which all kinds of unclean animals were offered to him.  Peter, being the good Jew that he is resists, but the voice tells him that God has made all things clean:

11He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners.  12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.  13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”  14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”  15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Acts 10:11-16 (NIV)

What is interesting here is that Peter protests initially, then is rebuked by the voice from heaven, but the does NOT partake of the animals of which were offered.  Some theologians have argued this is absolutely a permission by God to eat any kind of animal and that the Levitical dietary laws no longer apply.  Others have argued that the animals on the sheet actually represent Gentiles, and that Peter should not be afraid to go to them (as Cornelius’ men are at the door).

Applying Principlism

In one text in Deuteronomy, we can see “principlism” at work in our application of the first part of this law (verse 10), but we can also see a traditional approach as appropriate.

9 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. 10 Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11 or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12 Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD; because of these same detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. 13 You must be blameless before the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 18:9-13

In the first half of the 10th verse, we see a command from God to not allow people to live among you who would sacrifice their children. Using Hayes’ “principlism” approach further, we can also determine the following things; that there were going to be (and there were) people living in Canaan who did these practices, and that the Israelites were going to have to “kick them out.” In a “principlism” context, this part of the law might be interpreted differently than the absolute text given in the following verses.  While you would have a very difficult time finding parents in this modern world who burn their children as sacrifices, we do see rampant abortion, child pornography, molestation, and prostitution.  In the context of “principlism,” we absolutely could apply this text from Deuteronomy to the modern world.

What Hayes might call the “Universal Principle” of this text is that we should not sacrifice our children’s well being for any purpose.  In America today we can see this very behavior; that parents will work an inordinate amount of hours to make a comfortable living all the while neglecting the children who have been given them for blessing.  Jesus taught in Luke chapter 19 that children should not be hindered from coming to him; He says flatly “do not forbid them.” (KJV)  This is the emphasis Jesus puts on the children, that they are valuable and to be valued.  What we, as Christians must do is endeavor to value children highly, and do not turn them away.

In looking at the remainder of this law in a more traditional way, we as Christians learn to abstain and keep distance from those who practice the occult.  This pertains to fortune telling, astrological fortunes or signs, palm-readings, Ouija Boards, etc.  What God (through Moses) told the Israelites on the banks of the Jordan River was this, “keep away from the stuff, it is bad and will cause you harm.”  In our modern society, we can see the affects of these occult practices on a daily basis.  Canadian Pastor Jim Reimer wrote in 2009:

“Whether it is innocent exploration or appealing fascination, delving into spiritualism can be dangerous and destructive. Seeking the advice of a fortuneteller, psychics, horoscopes or Ouija boards can bring confusion, fear, and guilt to the seeker as they try to make sense out of cryptic messages. The knowledge presented is only partial and can be easily misunderstood by the presenter or by the one seeking guidance.”

Pastor Reimer is absolutely correct; the knowledge is only partial and furthermore is the same lie that Satan has been telling since his encounter with Eve in the Garden of Eden.  This is Satan’s first lie; “…your eyes will be opened…” (Genesis 3:5) or as some have called it, secret knowledge.

Conclusion

While Hays’ essay is solid and his reasoning is sound on the idea of applying “principlism” to the Old Testament law, the approach does have weaknesses, especially when given to those who do not have a firm grasp on theology, or the context of the scriptures themselves.  In Hays’ defense however, his approach does lay out a framework for interpretation that stringently holds to the idea that we can still apply he laws of the Pentateuch in today’s world and that it certainly has not passed from relevancy.

Bibliography

Whalen, Clinton. “Peter’s Vision and Conflicting Definitions of Purity.” New Testament Studies 51, no. 04 (2005): 505-518.

Hays, J. Daniel. “Applying the Old Testament Law Today.” Bibliotheca Sacra 158, no. 629 (2001): 21-35.

Reimer, Jim. “What Spirit Is It.” Nelson Daily News, October 30, 2009, Final ed.

Provo…The New Geneva

Forum paper from Church History on John Calvin’s Geneva and the rules by which the city was run…

Question:
Describe Calvin’s Geneva. Could you conceive of such a society today? Why or why not?

Upon his return to Geneva (1541) until his death in 1563, John Calvin sought to institute social and moral reforms within the city. Calvin worked with city officials to pass a series of laws called the Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which established the Consistory, a court of sorts that would oversee these moral and social reforms. Some forms of punishment for breaking the moral code included a public repentance, attending religious services, receiving additional religious education, and even excommunication (if only for a short period).

The Consistory was comprised of Calvin himself, the pastors, and twelve “lay” elders. According to Gonzalez, Calvin held sway with his personal authority over most matters even though he and the pastors would be out-numbered 2-1. (González 1984, 82-83)
The Consistory heard a broad range of cases and summoned many citizens from both the city and rural areas to appear before the group. Such issues as domestic quarrels, fornication, public drunkenness, fraud, gambling, and superstition (among many others) were brought before the Consistory. In the first two years of the Consistory, half of the 800 people who were summoned to appear were questioned about their church attendance and knowledge of their prayers.

Nearly that same percentage of people who were called for reasons other than orthodoxy was asked the same questions. (Watt 1993, 430) In 1542, one official mandated that all women, children and servants in his district would attend catechism so that they could be well instructed in religion and orthodoxy. (Ibid, 432)

Interestingly, in the first fifteen years of the Consistory, the primary focus was on religious orthodoxy, but following those years the Consistory moved more toward strictly enforcing the moral codes of the Ordinances. (Monter 1976, 479) Of the total number of urban excommunications between 1564 and 1569 (the years following Calvin’s death), a full 47.3% of them were for one of three offences, over 75% deal with the top seven offences none of which were religion-based. (Ibid) It is not until you get to number eight on the list do you see the entry of “superstition,” which deals with orthodoxy, etc.

Rural excommunications in Geneva 1564-1569
Rank Offnece Excommunications Percentage of Total
1 ”Scandals” 347 18%
2 Domestic quarrels 302 15.8%
3 Quarrels with others 258 13.5%
4 Fornication 160 8.4%
5 Rebellion to elders 151 7.9%
6 Quarrels with kin 126 6.6%
7 Drunkenness 102 5.3%
8 ”Superstition” 69

Source: Monter 1976

In addition to moral codes, the Consistory also seemed intent to make marriages work. In some cases to force the wedding ceremony of betrothed couples, other times to slow down the process. Mostly, however, the Consistory was called upon to resolve domestic quarrelling and stave-off divorce or separation. The occasional divorce was granted though, as in the following cases from Monter’s article:

“…to a peasant woman whose husband had deserted her to fight in Flanders; to a city woman whose husband finally admitted he was impotent; and to a peasant whose wife had run off with a mule-driver.” (Ibid, 473)

It would seem that Calvin’s Geneva is not a place where the modern person would want to live, but we do see places with similar practices even in the United States today.
On 3 March 2011, the sporting world was rocked with the announcement that BYU basketball player Brandon Davies had been suspended from the team for violating the school’s Honor Code, a week before the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Brandon Davies had premarital sex with his girlfriend. Part of BYU’s Honor Code states:

“Students must abstain from the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal substances and from the intentional misuse or abuse of any substance. Sexual misconduct; obscene or indecent conduct or expressions; disorderly or disruptive conduct; participation in gambling activities; involvement with pornographic, erotic, indecent, or offensive material; and any other conduct or action inconsistent with the principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Honor Code is not permitted.” (BYU 2011)

The BYU Honor Code governs how students must conduct themselves both on campus and off. BYU’s Honor Code is meant to be an advertisement of counter-cultural piety with which other institutions struggle as well. (Cosh 2011) This is a very similar situation to the moral and social ordinances of Calvin’s Geneva. BYU’s Honor Code goes further than just conduct, it governs how students must dress, groom, keep their apartment/dorm, and speak (polite, please). Keeping in good standing with the Honor Code is a requirement for enrollment and graduation from BYU. Furthermore, students attending BYU do so voluntarily. In Calvin’s Geneva,
excommunications were given primarily for limited periods of time, so too with Honor Code suspensions. Many other religious universities and colleges have similar codes of conduct to which students must submit, again, voluntarily. Could Calvin’s Geneva exist in today’s world? Yes, it already does.

Bibliography

BYU. 2011. Cosh, Colby. 2011. “WHERE SEX IS A FLAGRANT FOUL.” Maclean’s no. 124 (10):28-28.

González, Justo L. 1984. The Reformation to the present day. 1st ed, The Story of Christianity. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Monter, E. William. 1976. “THE CONSISTORY OF GENEVA, 1559-1569.” Biblioth®que d’Humanisme et Renaissance no. 38 (3):467-484.

Watt, Jeffrey R. 1993. “Women and the Consistory in Calvin’s Geneva.” The Sixteenth Century Journal no. 24 (2):429-439.

Thoughts from the side