Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | July 31, 2012

Titanic’s Sheep of Doom Put Out to Pasture?

So a fellow blogger’s suggested: “There were probably more acts of cowardice on the decks of the Titanic than there were acts of courage — this is so simply because normally, fallen human nature falls apart when things are tough.” Now he goes on to make some great points, and I thank him for that, and his corrective is waaaay on the mark. And I could parse this thing F-O-R-E-V-E-R if I wanted just for a little fun… because… well we need a little… but first I want to commend his essay. It’s great. Now… here’s a lesser one by intention… if you will… or I will… or whatever.

And so my point is simply, what if we’ve started out with the wrong idea? I mean… should we really be thinking either the world or our church is somehow so full of pride it’s like the Titanic… and bound for D-O-O-M ? Don’t know how to make a word echo on a page… so just imagine that it does… because that’s what’s seems to be called for whenever we use that word…or those words… cause doom is like this all-encompassing great time, right?

Okay… so here’s the news flash: No… we’re not headed for D-O-O-M with all kinds of echo blasts. Get over it. Jesus already told us his Church would stand through thick and thin… in a lot more beautiful phrasing by the way… but you can handle that for yourself… if you’re done with the echo chamber of D-O-O-M (which quite obviously I’m not 🙂 ).

What is it about being Orthodox that gets everyone going whenever there’s a bump in the road? You’d think they were going to ask for green cards, our papers, or whatever it is they do before the submarine “G-O-N-G” goes off (with it’s own echo chamber), the Gestapo shows up, and someone tells us to drop and roll. It’s almost as though everyone’s convinced our  bishops are literally shooting at us, each other, and the church. Gotta love it, don’t ya? And it sure doesn’t take much to get’em started. Must be entertaining up in those synods, huh? Well… I may be naïve, but I don’t buy it. Folks just need to chill… and maybe even drop the metaphors.

Which brings us to what The Onion likes to call “The Biggest Metaphor of All Time!” (i.e. the Titanic), and so someone has to ask, “What are the facts?” Of course, I have to ask that as a matter of rhetoric and though it might be a good idea, I frankly… am not a T-ship buff. And so we turn straight to the research… yes, folks out there really do research these things. And what we learn from RECENT research studying shipwrecks is not just that the “women and children first policy” aboard the Big Tee Burger was the exception, but the norm seems to have been quite literally “every man for himself” with the emphasis on “man”. Women dressed like men? Nah. They didn’t count. Men dressed like women? Don’t go there. Squirrels? Oddly, they showed up quite well. But strictly speaking… women and children typically fared quite badly. Crews and captains tended to fare the best – a fact I think the researchers mistakenly attribute to presumed “swimming skills” (not likely present in fact given the number of non-swimmers in our own navy) rather than more common “inside information” and “front running” that those of us who invest for a living fight as one of our every day ills by wearing life jackets at our desks.

But I do like that, don’t you: How many thought the bit about folks on a boat knowing how to swim being one of the important criteria for the job? Not navigation, not seamanship… but total disaster skills. “Get much of chance to practice that?” Hope not. If the answer is “Yes” I must be on one of those Italian cruise ships that runs close by an island to wave at his girl friend, “Hey, look at me, I can drive this boat up on the rocks… aaaaaghhh!” And if this means I’m in the minority for not wanting to hear that my airline pilot is “okay for the job…. ’cause he’s got great parachuting skills…” then I’m really missing something… which I might be. Just sayin’.

So the thing about the T-boat is what made their unique policy work wasn’t just some lame announcement followed by nothing, but implementation quite literally at gun point. It’s said the captain and crew enforced it, shooting into the crowd or at specific targets as necessary. As a result of this sort of enforcement, 70% of the women and children aboard actually survived or so they say. And not just here on the floating en-T-ray, but on the next couple of ship sinkings. Which brings us ‘round fully to the blog author’s original discussion of leadership. Leadership has to be real… otherwise it’s just lame.

Lameship’s easy to define… and that being the case (nice dodge there, huh?), we’ll move on to leadership. Microphone, please: “Real leadership… is far more rare…”.  And that being the case, examples are few and far between. As this affects the sample size and the likely T-statistic’s significance, we’re stuck like Pepe le  Pew, climbing “mountains of insig-snifficance… but not for love.” And so we probably don’t have a whole lot of information to go on in describing the characteristics of successful leaders…blah blah blah.” Yeah…that’s a dodge too, we have the Gospel… but since “everyone knows that” I won’t repeat it. Plus it has a lot of words… and some are Greek. As if!

And unfortunately, it’s here in the Gospel that the sinking of the Titanic led the sheep like lemmings to jump overboard… like the pigs in wherever that place with the Gerber scene with the baby was… only here they managed to swim for the pasture. Helps not being possessed by gobs of demons. And from the middle of the ocean… that’s a mite likely to fall outside their skill and strength set and not likely to go well. But oddly it did. Those would be the few who might have spent time working out at the gym… but I’m not thinking more than one or two. On the other hand (or hoof), if the T-thing’s still in pre-launch drydock, well… and all we’re talking about a gentle drop to the puddle beneath the scaffolding… okay a soon-to-be-crowded puddle, and then a wandering off to the pasture? Hey…well here, the sheep just might have a fighting chance.

Anyone still with me here? Right. I thought so. Olympics of stream of consciousness… this ain’t. Anyway…for one or two of you….

…the next time someone starts off with a Titanic metaphor and proceeds into a discussion of leadership in the church, before your head begins splitting like a log and your heart pounding like a nine-pound hammer, think first… “Just where the heck is this thing? Middle of an iceberg’s watery abyss, or drydock?” and then go thank God… really thank Him… that it’s only the stupid metaphor that’s still floating. Then go out and sink that thing like the Bismark… and think quietly to yourself: “Sure, we’ve got leadership issues… but that’s because we’re shrinking from our own role, from being the leaders we are called to be ourselves in this community, and in this… this metaphor… and sticking with it waaaay past the sell-by date.” And then go out there… I forget where…and step up, and switch things back to a discussion we know more about… like that old Faith and Works bit… where we know how to say our bit, fold the deck chairs and go home (without swimming!) or further metaphors.

“Isn’t it a lot like a question of Steel and Muscle – where Steel is the skeleton of faith, and Muscle are the works that make it live, and breathe and give it being?”

“Yar! She blows!”

“The metaphor?… no wait…that was a simile….or not? Well …never mind… there you Yar! Here I go, and let’s put the Holy Spirit on the case. May God grant us to be His people, and the sheep of His pasture… quite well IN the pasture, thank you very much!  …and as far away from some doggone boat and the water as we can get!”


  1. I agree to a point. Jesus also said he would cut off the dead wood. The hard part is discerning whether it’s a bump or a chain saw.

  2. Ah… hmmm. Y’know this started out a far more serious, definite piece… and then I just decided I can’t take it that seriously. Not that it isn’t… is just that my contribution…which FWIW as a congregant is at best a bit of perspective. But your perspective seems to take the whole much more seriously… which it is of course, but I think it’s just not at our level where the impact on making saints is just negligible (look at St. Nectarius’s life).

    Of course you’re right as well about pruning the vineyard, but I’m no hatchet man. I’ll have to explain that later… in a subsequent blog bit taking off from Fr. John Parker… that just made this piece too long. But that assumes I can get caught up and have time to dash off something in the midst of one of the busiest summer’s in years. Assume you’re enjoying pool-lessness?

  3. We have way too many “Jeremiahs” and “Temple-cleanser-wannabees” running around and not enough Nicodemuses who are willing to just humbly pick up the dead body and give it a decent burial.

  4. James- definitely enjoying a pool less summer. I’m no hatchet woman either. I find confrontation painful. I really like Steve’s admonition. I think perhaps I’ve been able to be a Nicodemus this week, except I helped feed the poor man dinner instead of giving him a burial.

    • Confrontation… yeah… especially not my specialty. Sometimes you can slip into a place where you can edge into a suggestion, and sometimes folks will let you… but often they push back.

      And Steve is on the mark.

      Funny thing is on a different podcast than I meant to refer to (see earlier comment), Fr. John Parker mentions similarly that as a priest he often runs into what he calls: Post Anglican Stress Syndrome (PASS) where the pain of abadonment and it’s pyschological trauma causes a new member of the church to have a hair trigger reaction and at the slightest provocation begin screaming something like, “Well there goes (another) church down the tubes!” and threaten to walk out. Like the term… I’d say it’s more like a popular Hollywood stereotype of the divorcee out on a first date who storms off muttering, “…Just like a man!” Once it’s in the water…what can you do?

      I think it’s for this reason that rather than make a decision in 90 days, I’d be happy if the church took it’s doggone time and waited for the normal cycle …even two years to let things cool down… before coming to an AAC to decide on a new Metropolitan. But that’s because it’s not clear to me that haste worked last time… and being new to the OCA and all, I’m just not aware whether or not there are enough good candidates wajting in the wings to be in a rush. Are matters really that pressing? Are there that many undecided issues screaming for a Metropolitan’s action? Dunno. Is there a reason to rush?

      • I am also concerned that 90 days is too fast. But, I think 2 yrs is too long. There are some things that are pressing that need a leaders (and pastoral) hand. Things will go undone for a long time that shouldn’t. Of course, none of these decisions are up to little old me. But, I can opine 😉

        Yeah, I’m surprised by all the people ready to write the obit for the OCA. I am seriously concerned, especially after what happened with the MP this past week – but not so far as to say “it’s dead, Jim”. The Russian church survived under way worse conditions. This should bring us some hope and a reminder to keep our heads down and our prayer ropes going.

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