May 2013

“I live a small but valuable life—Meg Ryan line from “You’ve Got Mail.”

“God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God”—1 Corinthians 1:28,29.

Sometime in the 1970s I bought my first stereo, a Radio Shack STA-16 receiver and two MC-500 speakers, plus a turntable. I enjoyed that system for years and years until finally the receiver started giving me problems. I took it to a hoity-toity stereo shop in Homewood, AL for repair. They glanced at the unit and quoted me some exorbitant price just for walking in the door, then said “You don’t want to spend that kind of money for something like this, do you” (emphasis mine)?

They disdained in their snobbery my little cheap receiver that had served me well. I took it elsewhere, of course, and got it repaired. Finally, just a few years ago, the front panel would no longer illuminate. But I couldn’t part with it, I guess for sentimental reasons. I put it in storage, which is where it stayed until today.

I was going to throw it away, but I wanted to make sure it contained no hazardous materials. I called the local store, and Lee, the manager, told me that there was no reason I couldn’t toss it. But then he asked what model it was. On finding that out, he told me he was interested in repairing it for a customer.

When I took the receiver and speakers to Lee, and he opened the box, his face lit up. The speakers were the same ones he bought when he was in high school in 1974. The receiver was just the right size for his customer to have in his garage. The man was recovering from cancer and wanted something simple and lightweight in his workshop. “He’s going to be thrilled,” Lee told me.

I was reminded of two things today: 1) not all payment is with money; the good feeling I got from talking with Lee and knowing his customer was going to be happy was better compensation for the stereo than any amount I could have gotten; and 2) the small, old, uncomplicated, and inexpensive things of this world may be despised by some (like those snobbish stereo salesmen), but they will bring joyous exclamations and broad smiles from just the right person at just the right time.

A man whose name I will never know will have enjoyment in his illness because I “happened” to pick up the phone today. Imagine that.

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.


Quoting someone, even with disapproval, gives him or her credibility as a conversation partner. It implies that he or she has said something worthy of attention. I have no desire at all to give such credibility or attention to televangelist Pat Robertson, but something he reportedly said the other day is so outrageous and such an egregious distortion of the gospel that I must comment.

A viewer wrote to Robertson’s “The 700 Club” saying that her husband had been cheating on her. She had tried to forgive, and they had gone to counseling, but to no avail. She felt she could not trust her spouse any longer.

Robertson replied that she should make her home more “enticing” (that presumably included herself), and her man would not stray. She owed this to him and should be grateful if he was a good provider, nice to the children, and handsome. (It seems to me that made her little more than a prostitute, paid with financial security for keeping her mouth shut about his dalliances.) And besides, she should have expected his behavior, since men wander.

That poor woman, already burdened with grief over the brokenness of the marriage and the betrayal of trust, thus had even more heaped on her by a “Christian” preacher she trusted enough to turn to in her plight. She (and presumably she alone) was responsible for her husband’s behavior and for keeping him faithful.

It’s a short leap from Robertson’s notion that wives are responsible if their husbands cheat to the widespread idea that women are to blame by the way they dress or what they say for sexual assault and rape or for being beaten by spouses, boyfriends, strangers, their superiors in the office or the military, and kidnappers. “Boys will be boys.” “He’s a man.” If a man needs to feel powerful by raping a woman or a child, he’s just displaying his nature. Women have to ensure that men’s tendencies are kept in check.

Robertson’s comments deeply offend and anger me, as they should any faithful, loving man, husband or boyfriend. How dare he lump me and all the millions of good men with cheating scumbags like that viewer’s husband? And is he so naive as to think his opinion will not give the imprimatur of a famous Christian preacher to those who already are disposed to treat women as responsible for both all the wrong in the world, yet ironically also expected to hold back all the evil in the world? Each individual, whether man or woman, is responsible for his or her behavior, of any sort, and will be held accountable. And in the covenant of marriage, we are expected to help each other and keep our vows; the burden of morality and decency does not fall disproportionately on one more than the other.

Is it any wonder an increasing number in our nation see Christianity as woman-hating, power-hungry, and hypocritical? Robertson’s comments are as faithless to the compassionate Christ he professes to serve as that philandering husband’s affairs were to his wife. The televangelist should be ashamed, and one day he will be, as he stands before the judgment seat of the Lord.

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.


“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic”—John F. Kennedy.


At a recent meeting of my presbytery (district church council), one of the preachers present got up and quizzed a commissioner (representative) to last summer’s General Assembly of the PC(USA) about the opening worship. He complained that he had read that the service made a bald political statement (in favor of gays) because it featured “dancing girls wearing rainbow stoles” and because the Table and the cross were both draped with rainbow cloth. He demanded to hear what the commissioner knew about that and what he thought. The man replied only that “we don’t do it like that” in his home town and church.

The intent of the preacher was to stir up yet again suspicion and distrust. Look at the General Assembly! It tolerates lascivious, provocative movement by “dancing girls.” It’s not a religious body, because it promotes the completely political agenda of granting gays and lesbians the right to marry and/or be ordained as elders and ministers! The use of rainbow cloth proves where their loyalties lie! So don’t give money to those idolaters! Question everything! Be on guard because those liberals will corrupt your children and teach them to follow the ways of the God-hating culture!

But guess what? The reality is not so sensational. I went to YouTube and found the 220th General Assembly’s opening worship. Yes, there were young women dancing as part of the processional. But they were tastefully dressed in pure white albs, and besides, dance is recommended over and over in our “Directory for Worship” as enacted prayer and a way of proclamation of God’s Word. They were indeed wearing rainbow stoles, but of only three colors (yellow, red/orange, deep blue), not the many hues of the typical gay pride flag. Does any display or use of a rainbow now signify support of gay marriage? How about the lady I saw in the post office the other day wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt with many colors splashed on it? May I assume she was a lesbian? And of course, the rainbow stoles or the colorful cloth on the Table could not possibly remind us of the rainbow throne in Revelation 4 or the bow in the clouds after the Flood! (The cloth draping the Table seemed to be kente cloth, by the way. If you would like to watch the service, go to; the processional starts at about 9 minutes into the video.)

All these details about a Presbyterian meeting are no doubt of interest only to a few Presbyterians. But the larger issue I want to lift up here is how the incident at Presbytery illuminates the tactics of false witnesses, AKA, liars. All these methods are classic.

First, attribute insincere, subversive, malicious or evil motives and/or intentions to those with whom you disagree, while proclaiming the purity of your own heart. So, the General Assembly worship planners and the ministers, elders, musicians, and others on the chancel were not really interested in worshipping God (whatever they said), but in promoting a “political” message of diversity, tolerance, fairness, and inclusion, since God is not interested in such things and Jesus never taught or modeled them. 

But the Westminster Larger Catechism, a traditional Presbyterian standard, reminds us that the ninth commandment (“you shall not bear false witness”) requires us  to have a “charitable esteem of our neighbors” which leads us to a “ready receiving of good report and unwillingness to admit an evil report concerning them.” We are forbidden from “misconstruing intentions” and are warned against “thinking or speaking too highly…of ourselves” and “aggravating smaller faults ((that is, blowing things out of proportion)…unnecessarily discovering of infirmities” and “raising false rumors.”

Next, liars, false witnesses, state the facts, but spin them in such a way as to arouse doubt, suspicion, malice, and hatred in their hearers, all to the benefit of the false witness and his or her agenda. Yes, the procession was led by choreographed females wearing rainbow stoles, twirling colored streamers. But the term “dancing girls” was supposed to conjure images of scantily-clad, lewd bimbos. The mention of rainbows was intended to play on the fears of traditional, conservative churchgoers that their marriages were being undermined by two women wanting to wed or that a gay man would soon be imposed on them by a hierarchical church system as their pastor.

Liars can state facts, and do, but there is more to honesty than a list of numbers or a report on an event. Honesty is about having a true and pure heart, out of which comes a desire for the building up of our neighbors and for the common good, not for the promoting of our own interests.

The Larger Catechism is again helpful.  Someone may speak “the truth,” it reminds us, but do so “maliciously to a wrong end or perverting it to a wrong meaning or in doubtful and equivocal expression, to the prejudice of truth or justice….” Truth-telling is more than stating facts; it’s making sure the truth serves the purposes of the Truth, who embodies love and justice.

Finally, liars, false witnesses, depend on their hearers not being interested enough to follow up and find out the real story or else not having resources or time or energy to track down what really happened and then give a meaning to it. They want people not to know the truth, but to be made afraid or angry. They count on the parochial vision of their hearers, that the latter’s frame of reference and depth and breadth of experience will not extend beyond the way people believe and act in one town or one church. Liars count on people being small and reliant on “those in the know” to tell them how things really are. They do not want anyone to think or explore or examine for himself or herself.

So, in the case of the church assembly, don’t say to the audience: “The whole opening worship service is on YouTube, and you can see for yourself.” No, just expect everyone to trust you, the speaker. That way the members of the audience can go about their pressing business without having their little world intruded upon.

False witness is bad enough in the media and in the courtroom. But when it happens in the church, where people are supposed to emulate the One who said he was “the Truth,” it’s inexcusable.

© 2013 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.

Rather than write something original today, let me simply pass along to you a link to a blog post by Arianna Huffington, who is becoming one of my favorite writers. It’s about something called “the time deficit,” from which I suspect you suffer as I much as I do sometimes. The piece is far-ranging, touching on everything from measuring success to
ADHD in children.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from Ms. Huffington’s reflections.