Whatever may have gone wrong in your life, your church or your neighborhood in recent days, it’s a pretty good bet you can blame it on El Nino. After all, we’re blaming everything else on it.
Truth is, these days folks just don’t want to accept responsibility for anything. Consider:
– A major in the British Army Air Corps was put on trial for falsely inflating financial claims on rations for his troops, then pocketing the $30,000 difference. The major, however, declared that it wasn’t really his fault; he was simply acting under the influence of too much tea. According to his attorney, the thirsty officer has been drinking as much as a gallon of tea a day for the past 20 years, and is now suffering from a condition known as “caffeinism.” This horrible condition may have caused the poor major of making an unintended accounting error.
There’s something wrong with this picture. First, a Brit complaining of drinking too much tea is akin to a policeman complaining of too many doughnuts And whoever said a gallon of tea a day is too much’ My mother drinks that much before lunch most days, complete with a couple of cups of sugar for flavor, and her only accounting error is occasionally forgetting to jot down her ATM withdrawals in the check register.
– Speaking of disorders: some Swiss experts have identified a new condition called “gourmand syndrome,” in which people used to average meals suddenly become obsessed with fine dining. (The Swiss do not explain if candles and linen tablecloths are required to curb the appetites of these poor souls.) Apparently the neurologist who co-authored the study argues that this eating disorder is caused by damage to the right hemisphere of the brain resulting from a stroke. He observed afflicted eaters who, after their brain damage, switched their tastes from White Castle to the Ritz.
Can we talk? If I have a near-death experience, don’t be surprised if I decide to skip the Big Macs and upgrade my cuisine. (I don’t really want my last meal to come in a paper sack.) Frankly, I like fine dining; the only disorder that displays is to my wallet.
– A fellow in Arizona named Ricky was accused of robbing an adult theater — and all this time I foolishly thought banks were where the money was kept. In addition, he shot at police officers during his escape. Displaying a firm grasp of the ridiculous, this astute young felon chose to act as his own defense attorney. In court, he claimed he had been framed by a man named “Jim,” who put a “date rape pill” in his drink. After drinking it, Ricky claims he became confused (probably wondering why nobody was date-raping him), put on a bullet-proof vest, took a gun and ski mask from his vehicle (a white Ford Bronco, no doubt) and committed the robbery. And he wasn’t trying to elude police as they chased him; he was simply trying to get out of their way. (For several miles, no doubt — a most courteous young man.)
Apparently the jury didn’t find Ricky’s tale compelling. They found him guilty. But I have no doubt the movie version will be far more sensitive to his side of the story.
– If only Ricky had read more academic journals, he’d have constructed a more persuasive defense. It seems a Dartmouth political science professor has discovered that some violent crime and antisocial behavior is caused by nothing less than environmental pollution. Turns out that countries with the highest rates of certain types of pollution also have higher crime rates than the average nation.
At least now we know what really caused the L.A. riots: smog.
In the spirit of this era of non-accountability, and as a service to readers of this fine publication, I have recently undertaken a scientific study of the causes for non-successful sermons. Please alert your deacons and church board members: poor sermons are not caused by lack of study or poor time management on the part of pastors. In fact, pastors bear no responsibility for such things. The real factors, I have discovered through my careful analysis, are the following:
1. El Nino. I know this sounds a little strange, but it has something to do with the jet stream and sleep patterns. Trust me.
2. Church carpet. The chemicals in the church carpet are actually emitting a toxic substance which temporarily blinds people to the brilliance of what they are hearing. Pastors spend so much time in the sanctuary they become desensitized to the chemical effect, so they are able to properly recognize the brilliance of what they are saying, even if the congregation has been turned into a bunch of crazed chemical-substance abusers. (I think the effect is similar to “caffeinism” but I am awaiting a multi-million dollar grant from the MacArthur Foundation before continuing my research.)
3. Oprah. You know that show where she swore off hamburgers and allegedly sent cattle prices tumbling? (Note to Oprah’s attorneys: I said “allegedly”) Well, beef prices declined, preachers were suddenly able to eat more steak, the fat clogged their brain cells, and the result was a temporary drain on their faculties, resulting in a 13.7 percent decline in sermon clarity in the ensuing weeks.
But that’s all over now that cattle prices are back up. So I’m putting my money on El Nino.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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