It was a frustrating Christmas season. A fledgling contemporary service had made great strides in 2010. Attendance was up, the church was experiencing the first growth in years.
There had been some resistance to more modern music and a less rigid routine. But the church changed one of its two traditional services, the later one, to a more contemporary style. There were disagreements even among those who had pushed for a service that might better speak to current struggles involving real people. There were discussions about how large the band should be, and who should be asked to join. The pastor first reluctantly acquiesced to allowing others, members of the band, to introduce songs. He eventually warmed to the idea, then became an enthusiastic advocate. Conflicts among professional staff led to the departure of a key member. But we persevered and the congregation kept growing.
Then Christmas crept up. We had discussed how to approach the season as much as a year before. Promises were postponed, then forgotten as committees changed membership. There were traditions that must be honored. A musical program centered around seasonal hymns had been a part of the service about forever. The choir always worked hard on a traditional presentation of the Christmas story. Service times had always been changed, congregations joined, to see the presentations.
The issue was a simple one to some of us. The success of the new venture depended a lot on consistency. Those who visited a new contemporary service would, as one might anticipate, expect a modern, forward looking service. It was important that new visitors coming each week see a vivid demonstration that worship of our Creator did not need to be confined to ancient rituals, 200 year old songs, and Elizabethan English thrown randomly about for a holiness effect.
The compromise was what one might expect from conservative committees trying hard to understand. The issue was addressed as one of hurt feelings that must be soothed. Contemporary band members would be invited to participate in singing spirituals, or in announcing some of the traditional songs. A joint service would be offered as "blended" worship, a combination of old and new. The old turned out to be all the hymns and structure of the traditional, and the new was accompaniment by a guitar.
Contemporary band members held informal caucus meetings, curbside conferences, coffee shop conclaves. A consensus emerged. Our attitude should be one of gratitude. We were not self-sustaining, although we had made strides. We were a child of the larger congregation who had already made huge concessions, turning one of their traditional services over to this new worship idea.
The analogy to MSNBC is far from perfect. Keith Olbermann's Countdown was more than self-sustaining. The link is gratitude.
I recall when Olbermann seemed to be the sole ray of light in an otherwise dark stage. The news was a simple choice between the Fox-News spin machine and hand wringing never-call-anyone-on-anything CNN. "Many math experts feel that 1 + 1 = 2. Other voices rise in disagreement." Olbermann was willing to present a fact-based liberal case in unapologetic tones. He was the only one. At first.
And I was grateful, not only to Olbermann himself, but to the sponsorship by MSNBC. The news network had been willing to take a risk on a liberal voice. His sponsorship of Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O'Donnell increased my admiration both for Olbermann and MSNBC.
The network still presents half a loaf. Switching channels to get the latest on some breaking item, I often will find Fox-spin, CNN temporizing, and MSNBC doing what? A cheap show of life behind prison bars, or the latest humiliation of some sexual predator. The hours that Fox goes unrebutted give me heartburn. But MSNBC does provide a few hours of opportunity for liberal fact-based views.
Now Olbermann has left in circumstances yet to be explained by anyone. Some personality conflict seems to be at play. Rumors were that some management types tried to pressure him to tone down some segments. Worst Person was supposed to be part truth, part joke, fellows.
So I am left with mixed feelings. I am grateful, MSNBC, grateful for the Maddow, Schultz, O'Donnell hours. I am grateful even for Matthews. I am grateful for the contrast with the evil empire of Fox-Ailes-Murdock. I am grateful for an alternative to the CNN very-pretty-airhead anchors of the weekend.
I am completely grateful. You clueless bumblers. Grateful.
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It is a pretty damning indictment upon cable news in general when the most trusted "journalist" of our generation is a comedian.
Even so, he was our greatest champion and I don't see a close second. As I have said over and over, this may be worse than losing the House. I will never know what I think about anything again.
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