Frank Viola’s The Letters of Marvin Snurdley

Over the last month or so, I’ve been listening to Frank Viola‘s Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices via Audible on my 10k runs. The entire book has been utterly fascinating, particularly for someone like me who saw quite a bit of this over the years but could never quite give it voice.

The story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley was a particularly fascinating example found in Chapter 11 (of 12), but the only place I could find it online was on a blog called “Common Sense Atheism“, and since they go on to attack Christianity in general, I thought I would copy it here with no commentary other than these notes and a strong recommendation to acquire and study this book for yourself. The story, in case it isn’t clear, is a direct examination of exactly what happened to form the largest single piece of the New Testament: The Pauline Epistles. Frank then does a great job throughout the rest of the chapter of examining and explaining why the issues presented in the story of the Letters of Marvin Snurdley unfortunately affect us all in the real world.

Marvin Snurdly is a world-renowned marital counselor. In his twenty-year career as a marriage therapist, Marvin has counseled thousands of troubled couples. He has an Internet presence. Each day hundreds of couples write letters to Marvin about their marital sob stories. The letters come from all over the globe. And Marvin answers them all.

A hundred years pass, and Marvin Snurdly is resting peacefully in his grave. He has a great-great-grandson named Fielding Melish. Fielding decides to recover the lost letters of his great great grandfather. But Fielding can find only thirteen of Marvin’s letters…

These letters were all written within a twenty-year time frame: from 1980 to 2000. Fielding Melish plans to compile these letters into a volume. But there is something interesting about the way Marvin wrote his letters that makes Fielding’s task somewhat difficult. First, Marvin had an annoying habit of never dating his letters. No days, months, or years appear on any of the thirteen letters. Second, the letters only portray half the conversation. The initial letters written to Marvin that provoked his responses no longer exist. Consequently, the only way to understand the backdrop of each of Marvin’s letters is by reconstructing the marital situation from Marvin’s response.

Each letter was written at a different time, to people in a different culture, about a different problem. For example, in 1985, Marvin wrote a letter to Paul and Sally from Virginia, who were experiencing sexual problems early in their marriage. In 1990, Marvin wrote a letter to Jethro and Matilda from Australia, who were having problems with their children. In 1995, Marvin wrote a letter to a wife from Mexico who was experiencing a midlife crisis. Unfortunately, Fielding has no way of knowing when the letters were written.

Take note: twenty years – thirteen letters – all written to different people at different times in different cultures – all experiencing different problems.

It is Fielding Melish’s desire to put these thirteen letters in chronological order. But without the dates, he cannot do this. So Fielding puts them in the order of descending length. That is, he takes the longest letter that Marvin wrote and puts it first. He puts Marvin’s second longest letter after that. He takes the third longest and puts it third. The compilation ends with the shortest letter that Marvin penned. The thirteen letters are arranged, not chronologically, but by their length.

The volume hits the presses and becomes an overnight best seller.
One hundred years pass, and The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly compiled by Fielding Melish stands the test of time. The work is still very popular. Another one hundred years pass, and this volume is being used copiously throughout the Western world.

The book is translated into dozens of languages. Marriage counselors quote it left and right. Universities employ it in their sociology classes. It is so widely used that someone gets a bright idea on how to make the volume easier to quote and handle. What is that idea? It is to divide Marvin’s letters into chapters and numbered sentences (or verses). So chapters and verses are added to The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly.

But by adding chapter and verse to these once living letters, something changes that goes unnoticed. The letters lose their personal touch. Instead, they take on the texture of a manual. Different sociologists begin writing books about marriage and the family. Their main source? The Collected Works of Marvin Snurdly. Pick up any book in the twenty-fourth century on the subject of marriage, and you will find the author quoting chapters and verses from Marvin’s letters.
It usually looks like this: In making a particular point, an author will quote a verse from Marvin’s letter written to Paul and Sally. The author will then lift another verse from the letter written to Jethro and Matilda. He will extract another verse from another letter. Then he will sew these three verses together and upon them he will build his particular marital philosophy.

Virtually every sociologist and marital therapist that authors a book on marriage does the same thing. Yet the irony is this: Each of these authors frequently contradicts the others, even though they are all using the same source!

But that is not all. Not only have Marvin’s letters been turned into cold prose when they were originally living, breathing epistles to real people in real places, they have become a weapon in the hands of agenda-driven men. Not a few authors on marriage begin employing isolated proof texts from Marvin’s work to hammer away at those who disagree with their marital philosophy.

Lexington County SC Sheriff Candidates and the “Officer Safety” Constitutional Exception

Over the past couple of weeks, I have posed a simple question to three of the candidates for the Lexington County Sheriff election one week from today, on March 3, 2015.

That question?

What is your response to this article? I will be blunt: I am putting this question to all three contenders for my vote (another has already shown his answer by shooting a completely innocent man while running in this race), and I will determine my vote based on the responses to this question.

“This article” being titled “No ‘Officer Safety’ Exception to the Constitution” and written by three men who are all current or former law enforcement officers, two of whom now work in more academic settings.

It states in part:

So, where does one find the officer safety exception to the Constitution? Generally speaking, it doesn’t exist. Generally, the rights of the people trump the rights of an officer to be guaranteed a safe outcome in dangerous situations. This can be an uncomfortable truth, but to ignore it is to operate in a virtual reality that only exists in one’s own mind. The truth is law enforcement is a hazardous undertaking and there is nothing that can be done to eliminate all of its physical risks.
If the choice is between feeling safer by violating someone’s Constitutional rights or taking calculated risks while honoring our oath, the pledge we made when our badges found their home on our chests is supposed to win every time. As in military service, doing our duty and following lawful orders will regularly put us at heightened physical risk.

One candidate, Justin Britt, provided his answer on August 5, 2014 when he shot an unarmed suspect while already running in this race. (First paragraph on page 3.)

Of the three candidates that I posed the question to, only two responded while the third shut down after I told him I am an admin at the Cop Block South Carolina page.

Ed Felix responded:

Ed Felix for Sheriff agrees with this article and reminds officers that they are not “paramilitary units”. They are public servants.

Mr. Felix was also the only candidate to allow me to post on their page, and this was his response there:

First. Thank you Jeff for your question. Second. My apologies for taking so long to answer. I put everything aside on Sundays to attend church and spend time with my family. Third. I want you to take into considerations my answers against the backdrop of the fact that I have been fired upon several times, had attempts to cut me, stab me, and on one occasion, a kitchen floor was mopped with my body after I asked someone to “please turn the music down”. As you probably know, I was an instructor at the SC Criminal Justice Academy (police academy) for a little over 14 years. One of the many courses I taught was “officer safety and survival”. I also head the department of Criminal Justice and Security at the University of Phoenix, Columbia Ground Campus, SC. In that program, I make it my business to teach the very first core class, “Introduction to Criminal Justice” (sophomores). My reason for doing that is to start the students with the correct tone as we begin speaking about the “Law and Order Model”, the “Individual Freedoms Model”, and most importantly, the application of the “Bill Of Rights” of our Constitution. These issues come up again in the “Police Theories and Practices” course and the “Criminal Law” (juniors) class, which I also teach. I have to say that I have a very professional cadre of professors that I supervise which follow my lead on these issues. They include longtime practitioners of criminal justice with diverse backgrounds to include retirees and attorneys. While at the police academy, I taught the “Terry Stop” as it should be taught. In the Terry vs. Ohio case the officer observed suspicious behavior leading him to believe that an “armed robbery” was about to take place. The Supreme Court in its decision made it clear that it should be a two-step process and that both had to be justified. The “Stop” had to be justified and the “Frisk” had to be justified separately. I reminded students that we were not “paramilitary” but “quasy military” (use rank and structure) as an organization and the overarching goal is to serve not to control the population. Unfortunately, after the academy law enforcement agencies change the Mantra to “officer safety above all else” even the constitutional rights of citizens. What I have seen is that lazy officers use it as a scapegoat to justify their actions, some of which could be suspicious. Truest me when I say that we heard all kinds of stories at the academy. The proactive and mentally and physically fit officer relies less on excuses and more on good observations and methods. “Awareness and self-discipline are the first lines of defense”, said the author of the article (paragraph 12). Two more things: 1. When I taught at the Police Chief School (mentioned in one of my opponets card) I reminded leaders of the very simple principle that “As they do, so will their subordinates”. This concept is universal in the education of leaders in any discipline. 2. Of all of the candidates in this race I am the only one who has had a case appealed all of the way to the SC State Supreme Court and upheld on its constititionality. It involved trafficking in drugs. As I mentioned in the backdrop (third above) for my answers, “Officer Safety” is near and dear to my heart, but that is only because the Constitution and the Bill Of Rights is already occupying my heart. I am a member of the “Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association and have been endorsed by Sheriff Richard Mack, Director. This is non-partisan association that stands by the Constitution as the ultimate test of service. http://cspoa.org/ Feel free to call or email me with any concerns you may have. Be safe. Edfelix803@gmail.com 803-530-9232 PS. Sorry for the length

Jay Koon twice prevented me from asking the question on his FB page, but after the second time finally responded to my private FB message. (Proof of the second one available in the pics below.)

This was his response:

Mr. Sexton
I agree with the article’s mention of training. We must properly train out officers on proper interaction with our citizens. I know the courts have ruled that officers can not knowingly place themselves in harms way and then justify force. I am a strong believer in community policing and that will not change if I am elected
Jay

When I asked him to provide clarification on his statement that courts have ruled that officers can not knowingly place themselves in harms way, a ruling that despite my police accountability activism I had never heard of, he never responded. It has been 6 days since I asked for clarification.

Dennis Tyndall blocks all posts to his page apparently, my own included. His first response to the question was to say that my post showed on his page (it never did publicly) and that he wasn’t the candidate who shot a person. He then said of the article:

I read the article and thought it was very interesting. Please let me know what your question is specifically. Or do you just want my reaction to the article as a whole?

I responded that I knew the man who shot someone wasn’t him, that it was Justin Britt, and that I was looking for his reaction to the article as a whole. He then responded that he was still Chief in West Columbia and asked if I minded if he re-read the article that night before responding. I agreed and asked him for a quote I could publish, and he asked where I would publish. At this point, I revealed to him that I am an admin at Cop Block South Carolina… and I never heard from him again. All correspondence I have from him was from Monday, Feb 16, and it is all in the images below.

Based on these responses, my vote is clear:

One week from right now, on Tuesday, March 3, I will be voting for Ed Felix for Lexington County Sheriff. He is the only one who can be trusted to work to end the plague of police violence that is killing thousands of Americans every year and sending untold numbers more to the hospitals.

Pics:
Koon post (Second time):
KoonOfficerSafetyExceptionQuestion

FB Email Conversation with Dennis Tyndall:
Tyndall1

Tyndall2

Tyndall3

Tyndall4

#1100MilesInRemembrance: Miles 12-14: Rocendo Arias, Robert Coleman, and Michael Estrada

Still adjusting to this whole moving 3+ miles *every day* thing, so still going a bit slow – not helped by a blister that started forming yesterday, and certainly not helped by the gym being so frakkin packed!

Today, I ran in memory of Rocendo Arias of Yakima, WA. Arias was sitting peacefully in his car assembling an airsoft gun when a cop opened his passenger door and shot him 4 times, once in the head. Another cop, a State Trooper, had seen the car earlier in the hour and simply assumed the man was sleeping. The reports are unclear as to what “crime” the murdering cop even suspected Arias of doing. Barely 24 hours before Arias was murdered, agents from another organization in the same County murdered another man, Jesse J Humphrey, in a trailer less than 10 miles away.

I also ran in memory of Robert Coleman of Flowery Branch, GA, the first fellow Georgian on this journey. Coleman was suspected of stabbing someone at a party earlier in the evening, but when cops arrived neither he nor the victim were at the place of the crime. They responded to a burglary call three blocks away, where they encountered and murdered Coleman. Not that neither stabbing nor burglary are capital offenses in Georgia.

And I ran in memory of Michael Estrada of Sierra Vista, AZ. According to the reports, Estrada was holding a machete in the front yard of a location cops responded to due to a hang up 911 call. The cops claim he made “aggressive statements” and began walking toward one of the officers, when Michael Rathmann shot Estrada. I’ve seen no video of this encounter, so we have no way of knowing what the “aggressive statements” were, but I also know of no law that allows people to be murdered for mere statements or even walking towards someone.

Sources:
From http://www.kimatv.com/news/local/Man-shot-by-Yakima-police-was-holding-an-Airsoft-gun–238986161.html regarding Rocendo Arias:

YAKIMA, Wash. — New details have come to light in this weekend’s deadly officer-involved shooting outside a Yakima car wash.

YPD said the officer shot and killed Rocendo Arias because he saw him holding a gun in his car. Arias took a bullet to the head.

Investigators said Yakima Police Officer Casey Gilette saw a suspicious car parked at a car wash. After noticing it hadn’t moved for an hour, YPD said Gilette approached Rocendo Arias’s car. First on the driver’s side, then the passenger’s side and opened the door. The officer told investigators he saw Arias holding a gun.

“It appeared that he had some accessories to the handgun that he was trying to install on it or put pieces of this gun together,” said Yakima police Captain Rod Light.

Gilette shot four times, hitting Arias once in the head. YPD Spokesperson Rod Light maintains the officer had reason to react.

“The deceased had the weapon not only in his hand, but he also had his finger on the trigger,” said Light.

However, investigators learned that Arias’ weapon wasn’t a typical gun. It was an Airsoft gun, considered a replica that shoots plastic pellets. While these guns can fire at high velocity, they’re not designed to be lethal. YPD said it’s not clear if Arias pointed the gun at Gilette before the shooting.

“It’s three in the morning,” said Light. “It’s dark and again we haven’t interviewed this officer yet so it’s hard to speculate what he saw.”

Gilette has been with YPD for 14 months and the Toppenish Police Department earlier in his career.

Investigators plan to search Arias’ car to see what happened to the other bullets. Gilette is now on paid administrative leave during the investigation. He will be interviewed later this week.

And from http://www.kimatv.com/home/video/KIMA-obtains-police-dash-cam-video-from-officer-involved-shooting-250261491.html, also regarding Arias:

YAKIMA, Wash. — KIMA has obtained the video and sound recordings of the moments just after a Yakima officer shot and killed a man earlier this year. Action News has also learned more about what police are saying happened in those early morning hours.

We obtained the Yakima Police Department’s report that investigated the shooting as well as video and the calls from the officer’s patrol car. It includes Officer Casey Gillette’s own account and some confusion about when he pulled his gun.

“Three shots fired.
Location?
Unit one calling, shots fired.
Location?
Unit 3 shots fired, suspect is down, shots fired suspect down.”

That’s Officer Casey Gillette’s call to dispatch immediately after he shot and killed Rocendo Arias.

“All available units, 909 East Nob Hill,” from radio dispatch.

KIMA obtained the recording and police dash cam video after filing a public records request with the city of Yakima. You can see one of the first backup officers arrive at the car wash. Dozens show up. They surround the car with guns drawn.

But, you only see the aftermath. Police say there is no video showing how Officer Gillette approached the parked car with Arias inside.
These images from Gillette’s patrol car show he’s out of position to record the fatal confrontation.

In YPD’s incident report, Gillette told investigators he parked that way because he didn’t plan to make an arrest or expect any trouble.
He had gone to the car wash after seeing the car parked there for at least an hour and thought it looked suspicious.

A closer look at the report shows Gillette backtracked on whether he pulled his gun before he opened Arias’ passenger door, or after.
He first told investigators, “I know I had my gun out because I didn’t have to draw it, I mean, It was already right there on him.”
He then gave a different response when asked which hand he used to open the car door, “I don’t believe I had my gun out at that point. There would have been no reason to.”

The report notes it’s common that officers don’t remember drawing their guns in these situations because of the repetition of training.

The report also shows Gillette wasn’t the first to notice Arias’ car.
A state trooper spotted it while she was washing her patrol car.
She says she checked out the scene and assumed the driver was just taking a nap.

A different approach from Officer Gillette, with a very different outcome.

The Yakima County Prosecutor ruled the shooting was justified based on the perceived threat. Prosecutor Jim Hagarty did not respond to our requests for comment today. The attorney for the Rocendo Arias family says the lawsuit against the city of Yakima and YPD for wrongful death is still in process.

From http://www.ajc.com/news/news/breaking-news/shooting-in-lawrenceville-leaves-suspect-dead-offi/nccgt/, regarding Robert Coleman:

Authorities on Monday released the name of the stabbing suspect fatally shot by Gwinnett County police over the weekend. An officer was wounded in the incident.

Robert Coleman, 30, of Flowery Branch, was shot and killed by officers responding to a burglary call Saturday afternoon at a home near Lawrenceville.

Detectives confirmed that the incident was related to a reported stabbing at a nearby home.

No suspect or victim was initially found when officers responded to a stabbing call in the 3600 block of Willow Wood Way around 4 p.m.

Minutes later, officers received a call about a burglary in progress about three blocks away — in the 3800 block of Smokemist Trace. Two officers encountered Coleman while checking the residence and shots were fired, police said.

Coleman died at the scene. One of the two officers was shot in the leg and taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and later released.

The stabbing victim returned to Willow Wood Way a short time after the related shooting and was transported to a hospital in serious condition. The victim was last reported to be in stable condition.

Witnesses told police that Coleman had attended a party on Willow Wood Way during which the victim was stabbed.

The investigation into the incident is continuing.

Authorities said both officers fired shots during the encounter with Coleman. Both have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard procedure.

From http://www.jrn.com/kgun9/news/Man-killed-in-officer-involved-shootin-238727951.html, regarding Michael Estrada:

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) – Michael Estrada, 49, was shot during an altercation with a Sierra Vista Police officers early Saturday morning.

Cpl. Scott Borgstadt with Sierra Vista Police tells KGUN9 that 911 operators received a hang-up call at about 3:10 a.m. The operator called the number back to check on the welfare of the residents, and was informed by a male subject that he had dialed a wrong number.

SVPD dispatched two patrol units, to the 1200 block of Paseo San Luis. When the arrived on scene, they found a man in the front yard of the residence.

Estrada began making aggressive statements and started walking toward one of the officers. Officer Michael Rathmann fired his department-issued weapon at Estrada, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, said Borgstadt.

Estrada was transported to a local area hospital area were he was pronounced deceased.

Detectives are conducting an internal investigation into the shooting in cooperation with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.

Per SVPD policy in any officer-involved shooting, Officer Rathmann has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Officer Rathmann is a 13-year veteran of the Sierra Vista Police Department.

Ever Notice?

Have you ever noticed how dark the night sky is on a new moon?

Have you ever noticed how bright the night sky is on a full moon?

All the moon does is reflect the light of the Sun.

Kinda makes you wonder about what happens when Christians, who are supposed to reflect the light of the Son, withdraw into their own world…

Powerful Stuff Indeed

My friend Doug Rea has an excellent post up on his site called ‘Stop the Building‘. It explains some key foundations as to what he feels is wrong with the Modern Church, and I completely concur. Below is an excerpt, but I HIGHLY encourage you to go read the full thing!

For centuries, ministry was about the building; The “House of God,” and dare we defile it. The church building was the holy sanctuary of the Christian faith. There we could once again have our sins resolved, our offering taken, our songs sung, and our service to God performed. (Sound familiar?)

Even as late as the 20th century, ministry successs was defined by the facility. How many it could hold, family life centers, and coffee shops redefined what the church has become. Now we had praise teams, choruses and projected our words using the overhead. Finally we come to today. How silly to wear a 3 piece suite like the 80’s and to use hymnals. Now we can now relate the message to people in a manner that is relevant thanks to video, iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, blogs, and other means of modern communication. I am pro-use of all these things.

But I have to ask, “Has anything really changed since the Gothic days of cathedrals?”
I am speaking of those days where a certain pattern of behavior known as worship was performed each and every Sunday, by a few trained professionals, to an audience who was basically spectators.

I submit little has changed.

Just as in the days of old, the pinnacle of ministry is about a facility and not a people. The defining moment in the life of a church is more often the first service in the new building than it is how the people meeting the needs of one another.

Fallout: New Vegas

Bought it on my lunch break today, seems to be cool so far. Similar enough to Fallout 3 that you’ll know what you’re doing, but there are quite a few new twists in there that are already apparent. Things like cooking, creating your own ammo, you don’t start out in a vault, etc. SPECIAL/Perks are still there, controls are the same so far, but even then, there are distinct but minute differences that should hopefully make the game that much more fun to play over and over.

So that’s my initial impressions after having just finished the first quest where you battle a gang. Anyone else played yet?