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Tony W. Cartledge | Blog


It was fixed!

Perhaps you've seen the article about a Greek papyrus from the third century CE that contains the first written evidence of someone agreeing to throw a game in return for a bribe.

In this case the object was actually to be thrown, three times, in a wrestling match. Two teenage boys were set to compete in the finals of the 138th "Great Antinoeia," an important series of regional games held in the Egyptian city of Antinopolis, in conjunction with a religious festival.

In such matches, the victor did not win by pinning his opponent, but by throwing him to the ground three times, using a variety of moves. According to a contract reached by the adults around them, one Demetrius agreed to fall three times and yield to Nicantinous, whose father promised to pay a bribe of 3,800 drachma, about the price of a donkey.

And you thought professional rasslin' was fixed.

Reading the article on Good Friday, I can't help but recall that there were those who thought Jesus was defeated at "the place of the skull," but the match was fixed. Jesus knew that his fall was temporary, that he would rise again, and that the ultimate victory -- won in our behalf -- would be his.

Thanks be to God.



I don't get it ...

There are some things in life that I don't understand. I try not to be a curmudgeon about these things, but remain baffled by them.

Why do perfectly healthy young college students line up at the elevator to go down two floors when class is over? Down! The elevator in Taylor Hall, where I teach, was replaced two years ago, but it's still incredibly slow. The building is just three stories tall plus a basement, so there are only three flights of stairs from top to bottom. For people who have physical disabilities, are pushing a cart, or maybe even carrying a heavy load of books, an elevator is convenient or even necessary. For everyone else, it offers the double negative of wasting both time and a good opportunity for a little exercise. I don't understand.

Why do people refuse to recycle, even when it's easy and convenient? Anyone who pays attention knows that our landfills are overloaded and resources are not unending. It only takes a few extra seconds to put cans and bottles in a recycling bin, or to put paper and cardboard in separate container, but some folks blithely throw everything into a trash can. Why? Is it so they can go stand in line at the elevator more quickly?

And why do people buy nice houses in respectable neighborhoods, and then refuse to mow their lawns, trim their shrubs, or give any indication that someone lives there beyond a car in the driveway? There's a stretch of three houses on my morning dog-walk that appear to be competing to see who can go the longest without being touched. One has deep green but uncut fescue, while another has a paler green variety and the next has an amalgam of weeds, some of them so tall that they obscure the owner's "My lawn is not your dog's bathroom" signs. Some dogs could get lost if they ventured into that yard. I always thought the word "lawn" implied some level of maintenance.

And don't get me started on people who casually throw their bottles, cans, and fast food detritus right out the car window and onto the side of the road. I can't even begin to understand that. 

The good Lord gave us a beautiful world, rich with resources, and told us to take care of it.

Is that so hard to understand?



Does this look like money?

A record was set April 9, though it didn't make many headlines. A clay cylinder marking Nebuchadnezzar II's reconstruction of a temple to Shamash in Sippar was auctioned by Doyle's of New York for a cool $605,000.

The cylinder is about 8 1/4 inches long and 3 1/4 inches in diameter at the center.The cylinder was purchased by an anonymous person whose bids came by phone.

Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BCE) was the most powerful and famous of the Neo-Babylonian kings. Historically, he's best known for defeating an allied force of Egyptian and Assyrian armies at Carchemish around 605 BCE, making Babylon the sole "superpower" of its day.

Biblically, he's known for being the guy who conquered the kingdom of Judah in 597 BCE, carrying many exiles to Babylon, including King Jehoiachin. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah to rule as a vassal king, but when Zedekiah later refused to pay tribute, Nebuchadnezzar sent his armies back to Jerusalem in 587, razing and burning the city, including the temple. Those who weren't killed, other than the poorest of the land, were force-marched to Babylon, beginning the exile proper.

The king who destroyed the temple of Yahweh sought favor with the Babylonian gods by remodeling their various temples. Following custom, he took full credit by describing his generous and loyal acts (while lavishing praise upon himself) in writing on clay cylinders that were preserved in foundation stones and other places.

Amazing, isn't it, that more than 2500 years later, Nebuchadnezzar's paean to himself, though recorded on nothing more than a shaped lump of clay, could sell for a half a million dollars, not counting premiums and fees.

That's not a bad segue to asking what our words are worth. They may never sell for thousands of dollars. In fact, most of us will never have our words sold at auction for any price.

The words we speak, however, when voiced with compassion and care, can be priceless in their own time.

And they don't cost us a penny.

Is there any good reason not to speak words of encouragement today?


Will children support their parents?

The April 6 Parade magazine included an interesting take on relations between the "boomer" generation, now moving into retirement, and their children, the "millennials." (Here's a similar report from NPR).

While demographers and sociologists vary in their definitions, one popular approach is to identify "boomers" with the post-World War II "baby boom," extending roughly from 1946 to 1964. They were followed by a smaller generation, formerly known as the "baby busters," but now more commonly called "Generation X," born from about 1965-1980. Gen-Xers gave way to a still-growing generation once known as "Generation Y," but now more frequently dubbed "millennials," and occasionally labeled "echo boomers," because they're the boomers' children and are similar in size.

Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, notes that we should not be surprised to note that the boomers and millennials have a lot in common, and get along better than expected. That, I suspect, has something to do with the boomers' parenting style, which tended to be more laid back and permissive than that of their own parents' generation, the "builders."

A 2009 study by the Pew Research Center found, for example, that both boomers and millennials considered the Beatles to be their favorite musical group. The Beatles broke up long before the first millennial was born, but their music lived on through a succession of 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and mp3s.

But boomers and millennials are also tied together by financial interdependency. While the boomers have largely been a very prosperous generation, millennials struggle to find good-paying jobs and will likely be the first generation in the modern era to be poorer than their parents. Studies show that about forty percent of millennials either still live with their parents, or have become boomer-angs, leaving home for a while but returning when they couldn't make ends meet.

We boomers had better hope our offspring will remember how long we have supported them, because as we continue reaching retirement age (at the rate of about 10,000 per day), they're going to be the ones paying into the Social Security and Medicare trust funds that we hope will support us.

That's scary, considering the ratio of taxpayers to retirees is bordering on to two-to-one, the lowest ever. Insecure about their future, boomers are tending to postpone retirement and hold onto their jobs for as long as they can, which makes it even more difficult for millennials -- often stuck in low-paying positions -- to move up the income ladder.

Maybe more of us boomers, as we approach 65, should consider the philosophy "retire now so they can pay later." But our replacements will probably be paid less and thus contribute less to the social programs we'll be depending on, so one could also argue that we should work and contribute as long as we can. 

Then again, when younger folks can't find work, they may end up needing the benefit of other social programs while also being deprived of valuable work experience, adding to the current outflow of services -- and cash.

What to do? Thinking about economics, like figuring taxes, makes my hair hurt -- but if we can hold onto the Old Testament ideals of justice and mercy for all, based in the love of God, maybe we'll figure it out yet.


[Taylor is the author of The Next America: Boomers, Millennials and the Looming Generational Showdown [PublicAffairs, 2014]).


BWIMNC believes God is still creating

GREENSBORO -- Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina (BWIMNC) celebrated its 31st convocation March 28 at College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, focusing on the theme "God is Creating Still."

Alicia Davis Porterfield (left) recieves the Anne Thomas Neil Award from convener Virginia Taylor.The group's annual Anne Thomas Neil Award was awarded to Alicia Davis Porterfield of Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington, who was also named convener for the coming year. Self-described as "a writer, coach, and itinerant preacher," Porterfield recently contributed to and edited a collection of essays entitled A Divine Duet: Ministry and Motherhood. She has been an avid supporter of BWIMNC throughout her ministry career, including a previous stint as convener.

During a worship service following the business session, Porterfield reflected on ways God remains active and creative in the lives of Christ-followers. She challenged participants to take the suffix "" and fill in the blank, thinking of ways that God is working in their lives. 

Cindy Bolden (right) presents the BWIMNC Church Award to Anita Thompson, Leah Reed, and Daniel Glaze of Ahoskie Baptist ChurchThe BWIMNC Church Award was presented to Ahoskie Baptist Church in Ahoskie, which has elected women deacons since the 1920s, had a number of women serving in staff positions, and has ordained women as ministers. Pastor Daniel Glaze, Associate Pastor for Music and Worship Anita Thompson, and Minister of Youth Leah Anderson Reed accepted the award in the church's behalf.

BWIMNC also unveiled a new logo, elected new board members, and adopted a budget for the coming year. New board members for the "Class of 2017" are Molly Brummett, Minister of Youth and Community at Knollwood Baptist in Winston-Salem; Lin Bunce, Associate Minister at College Park Baptist in Greensboro; Elizabeth Edwards, Associate Minister at Lakeside Baptist in Rocky Mount; Lynn Lingafelt, Minister of Children at First Baptist in Raleigh; and Amy McClure, a recent graduate of Campbell University Divinity School.

The worship service closed with a hymn, "God Is Creating Still," written by Elizabeth Edwards.