Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Truth or Myth?

Hey, guys. Tell me if you've heard the following story before, if it's true, and where you heard it.

I'll don't recall all the details, but it goes something like this: a railroad bridge operator (don't know if that's the correct term for it, but you get the idea) has to lower the bridge for an oncoming train. The guy's son is playing on the gears and gets stuck. The guy doesn't have time to save his son, so he has to lower the bridge so the train can go by, thus killing his son in the process.

True or false? Any takers?

44 comments:

Charlie said...

Btw, my wife is not allowed to comment until everyone has (or mostly everyone, anyway). I'l explain later.

Chris said...

I think it's like a modern day parable of sorts. Although a very dark one. I don't think it's true or false, just a "what if?"

Mat Brewster said...

Sorry, I know this kind of kills the conversation but, Snopes says it's a inspirational parable.

Jamison said...

since brew already did it, i wont, but snopes would have been my first stop...

the internet is great, but sadly, it takes all the mystery out of life.

Chris said...

You guys! Just like the greeks, taking the mystery out of everything. I also knew it was on Snopes but I wanted to see where we would go with "Charlies Mystery."

Mat Brewster said...

I know, I totally ruined it. I started debating it in my head, then I just *had* to know and looked it up.

We could talk about why it was made up, and why preacher's continue to use it.

Jamison said...

well, it does sound kind of Jesus-esque... and the bridge operator is God and the train is full of us sinners... and the Son is killed to save the people...

Mat Brewster said...

TTVT, though as snopes points out, the son in this story doesn't die willingly. Still it is a way to help us better understand the sacrifice that God made.

It's interesting (and when I say interesting I don't mean wrong, or stupid) that we have to come up with these stories to illustrate Jesus death. As if the actual story isn't enough. I mean I get it. That story is old, and repeated ad nauseum and different stories - like this bridge one - bring it into different perspectives, but its interesting none-the-less.

Preacher stories on the whole are interesing. Which ones are true, which ones are based on something sort of true and which ones are wholesale made-up? And does it matter?

Diana said...

My hubby is mean.

Mat Brewster said...

Uh oh. Was this a marital debate turned public?

For shame Charlie.

And no worries Diana, I didn't know either until I looked it up on that urban legend page, which not everyone knows about.

Jamison said...

Keep us posted of any arguments yall have Di, the blog gets really slow sometimes :( We need some reading material

Ryan F. said...

Sure, blame it on the preacher. Like we just go around making up stories about kids getting killed playing on the railroad tracks.

Maybe a CSX worker, or some guy for Amtrack made it up.

Why you gotta pick on the preachers? ;)

Charlie said...

Okay, but have any of you actually heard the story before? I was pretty sure the story was made up, I just wanted to see if anyone other than a member of my congregation had heard it.
Diana heard the story in ladies' class, and told me about it. I had already heard it, and even finished the story before she could. I said that it was made up, didn't really happen. A preacher's story. Diana said it was true, the ladies told er so, and that it had even happened in OUR TOWN! If it happened here, I said, then why doesn't it get brought up from time to time, someplace other than church? So I posted this to test you guys, to see if you heard before, and where. If you said yes, and that you heard it in church or a local youth rally or something, that would prove it didn't really happened. The whole point was to see if you had actually heard the story, not to find out if it was true. No worries, though. My point is still proven. I win.

Ryan F. said...

Yes, i've heard it many a time. It is made up.

Go Go Para Presidente!

He would have saved the boy!

Mat Brewster said...

Yep, definitely heard it before. Several times from different congregations.

Fred, you preachers are always making junk up. It's like you think you're jesus telling parables :)

Jamison said...

yeah, i think i can remember hearing the story before, but somehow I remember it being in the form of a riddle or something.

Diana said...

Charlie, since when do you say "No worries"?

lilsip said...

I've heard it too. It drives me absolutely nuts when preachers or speakers or whoever tell "dead baby stories." That's what my mom and I call them. Emotionally-charged made-up stories to make you feel bad or inspired or both.

I especially hate the one where the kid has to give blood for his sick sister and the dad ends up finding out he thought he had to give all his blood to save her. Dead baby story.

A whoooole lot of those go around in emails and I grind my teeth. Or just delete them without reading.

Ravid said...

I think this IS true, because I am the one who made it up. Or not.


How about the one about the doctor and his son who were riding in their car and got in a terrible accident and when they got to the hospital the doctor on duty said, "I can't operate on this boy. He's my son." Is that the same kind of thing?

Mat Brewster said...

I think it's more like all those - what if someone was on the road to get baptized and got hit by a drunk driver and died? OR what if someone getting baptized was drowned in the water?

Ravid said...

Ah, yes! To which I always answer, "I am not God and I am glad I don't have to make that decision." I avoid confrontation whenever possible.

Jamison said...

my favorite "make you feel guilty" sermon story:

I dont know it word for word but is something about a man goes to heaven and all the people he knew in his life are, like, in the line to hell and they are looking at him in the line to heaven saying "why didnt you tell me? or talk to me about Christ?"

And I am thinking "Heaven is full of guilt?

lilsip said...

Or, what if someone was hanging on a cross and asked for forgiveness? Oh, wait...

Mat Brewster said...

Nah, that stories too old fashioned :)

Ryan F. said...

HEY, let's quit the preacher bashing. I'd like to see some of you come up with 4 different lessons a week every week and not have to revert to using an EXAMPLE that you might think could help get your point across.

Members. Pssssshhhhh.

Jamison said...

I wouldnt call it preacher bashing, just 'dumb story' bashing. Ive heard more devo speakers use them than preachers honestly. FYI, for those keeping score at home, i talked with Stubbs ont eh phone tonight, he sounds well and happy and still laughs alot. He lives very much, as is evident in this blog posting.

Ryan F. said...

BTW, I got the video on my computer, but youtube won't let me upload. It keeps telling me to confirm, and i keep doing it, and it keeps telling me to confirm...

I may call you tomorrow if I can't figure it out.

Jamison said...

call me friday (today) on my cell after 1pm central time

thejay28 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thejay28 said...

Some comments.
Ever consider the contextual power of narrative? The parables Jesus told were so powerful because they illustrated some truth, something Divine uncovered and unraveled out of the seemingly meaningless ocurrences of every day life. Stories have power because we are in the midst of the story. It touches us in a way that imaginations can not because it is precisely something that we have experienced, touched, seen, heard, handled. Etched into our memory to conjur up feelings, emotions associated with memory. An experience vs. something imagined. This is the power of narrative...Help me out here bigSip...
This story sucks so bad because it's a train operator. How many trains have you operated? How many friggin' train operators do you even know? There are many other reasons why this one bites the big butt of bad preaching, but I think this is enough to make the point. If not, then please let me know and we'll keep the critque going.

Jesus's narratives demonstrated the genius of geniuses. The essesence of pure genius lives in all those red letters.

An illustration, one which may arouse certain controversy, but please...consider the example.

Our generation may be able to relate a smidgen to the lost coin parable because we remember our Mothers sweeping the house. But what about a lost coin? I mean what true value does a coin have (Besides brew when he's been on one of his extended unemployment stints...or if you're some kind of rare coin collecting nerd). Seriously? Would losing a coin these days and sweeping the entire house looking for it mean much? Nope...
To these folks, it was something that spoke of their experience. Sweat and dust. Financial loss so easy that one's entire savings can be tossed away in an instant. Maybe it was this coin that was a daughter's dowry. This story sent chills down the audiences spine as memory was conjurred up of some part of this story that held them fixed at center stage...the protaginst in struggle.
Now think about this....

Jesus is here today and He get's all post-modern (don't freak out, not in His religious beliefs, but in time/space/history) and is like wearing a hemp hat and all and is chillin' at the Starbucks and sippin' a Venite Soy latte...catch my fabulouso word mixin' if you can..He starts talkin' to the crowd he's got gathered in between strumming a tune on his guitar, doing a little unplugged. He starts talking about love. He's talking to the Midnight Cafe crew. He starts waxin' all poetic like and starts gettin' all reminescent of the past and talks about love. That it's about love. That people identify us this way, that we are from God because of our love for on another. He says, if one of us goes wandering off, it's like somebody loses their iPod...and they look all over the house...tearing up the place and getting the wife all involved and tearing up the car trying to remember where we put it. Now ain't that a powerful illustration of the relevance of the context of Narrative. Preacher boys got dis' figured out. Just that most of their stories are lamer than Moses as a disc jockey (well, actually that might be kinda cool). Let me give you a fine illustration. One of a higher caliber than that there train robber scenario Sir Charles dug up from what Ryan pulled out of Carl Cheatem's "100 Church of Christ illustrations from the restoration movement" class.

I'll attempt to reiterate what I heard recently to take the following passage from Jesus and place it our narrative.

Mark 10:17-31
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" 20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." 22 At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God." 28 Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!" 29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

The thing most often misunderstood about what the Teacher is saying in this passage is what He is saying regarding righteous living or good deeds. Not what He's saying about rich folks and money. I mean, "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil" kind of covers the bases on that topic, I'd say.

When Jesus was alive, people understood physical health and material wealth to equate with righteous living and favor with God. This is elsewhere illustrated when an inquiry is made regarding the reason for a blind man's ailment.
John 9
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him

The belief was that you sin, you are cursed. And in like fashion, you are cursed, physically or materially afflicted, it is directly related to sin. And, conversly if one was wealthy and healthy, they were looked upon as being righteous.

So, since we do not look at people this way any longer-We all know that there are plenty of rich people that will burn in hell-we should try and understand what Jesus was saying and then to illustrate it, say it like He might say it to us today.

So, we look at righteousness...or rather the world does...in terms of good deeds, acts of kindness, social consciesness, acts of service...Maybe like Mother Teresa. Oprah, the pop Preistess for many. Maybe these gals are the epitome for some. Or maybe place someone in there that you think has the best shot at heaven b/c they live right, talk right, do right, preach right, etc. Maybe a personal hero for you. Maybe a well known preacher, or a well studied professor who has the whole bible memorized, or a childhood hero like your grandpappy. Well, imagine that Jesus is saying to them as they approach Him, "Teacher I've never taken a drug, a drink of liquor, never cursed a day in my life, never missed a day of church, prayed up, studied up, I've personally baptized x number of people, I give such and such a %, I am a preacher and an elder, I have been a missionary and got gain green and my left big toe fell of for the spreading of the good news" To ad nauseum. You get the point. Yes, you do. Well, it's as if Jesus is saying, "But you didn't do...." Maybe He would say, you didn't "foster children" You didn't "have the whole bible memorized, like this fella over here". Always more deeds, more sacrifice, more....Always more that can be required. So what gives, Teacher? The apostles are like kicking the dust with their feet looking down at the ground, wondering, who stands a stone's throw of a chance?

In comes the allegro with a resounding boom! Jesus's reply about a camel passing through the eye of the needle. (Yes we've all heard the claim to the stooping camel under the small archway...this is not he point..not completely anyway).
His reply is to demonstrate the absurdity of basing justification on anything but faith in something that trumps human effort.
Consider that person you had in mind above. If it was up to their righteous life to grant them entrance to eternal life, then it's about as feasible as one attempting to stuff a Ford Expedition into the night deposit box at the bank as it is for them to get into heaven. Or any other "great" and "good" person. "Why do you call me good?", He said.

The point is not to be rich in our own estimation. Salvation is impossible in our own hands. "All things are possible with God."

Some measure of this message was clear to Isaiah.
64:6
All of us are like someone unclean, all our righteous deeds like menstrual rags; we wither, all of us, like leaves; and our misdeeds blow us away like the wind.

It's great to know that I can come to God with the righteousness and purity of His son. And not what would equate to menstrual rags by presenting my own righteousness.

I think I'll trade in this filth I'm saying qualifies me, Lord. I'm trusting what You've done that I could not, the price You paid. It's what I need. I'm tired of trying to figure out how I'm going to stuff this SUV into that tiny box.

The power of narrative.

Ryan F. said...

First of all, I've never used that example. It is lame.

Second, who are you?

Ryan F. said...

Nevermind, I know who you are...punk.

You still doing that decathalon or whatever?

Mat Brewster said...

J to the G! Outta nowhere you come with a "few comments" that becomes a freaking novel! Good stuff though. I'll say more about it tomorrow while I'm at work. Nice to see ya though

Jason said...

Ryan, Brew,

Great to hear from you both. Ryan, I know u didn't use the example; I couldn't resist a jab at Cheatham. I checked out your blog. Congrats on the family! Tammy reminds me of her mother! One of the greatest ladies I ever knew. Tell everyone I said hola! We're about to have our second daughter any day now. I am still doing tri-athlon training. Altough, my training hours have cut back considerably in the last few weeks to get ready for the baby. I'll likely only do a few races this year. Been doing quite a bit of moutain biking. A blast!

Brew...how the heck are you? I'll comment on your blog about your Father-in-law.

Mat Brewster said...

I'm good, man. Wife's about done with the PhD so we're trying to figure out our next move, which is a little stressful, but exciting at the same time.

Good to see you around these parts. Stick around and join the converstion.

Jamison said...

Jason'
Im sure I said this before, but thanks for the dinner at your home when the wife and I were in Dallas.

I am always honored when I am invited into someones home, for many reasons, but the main reason is because the legend goes that a zombie can only kill you if you let him into your home... or that may be a vampire. In any case, you took the risk and I appreciate that.

I am a bit of a werewolf though.

Ryan F. said...

Tri-athalon, that's right. Sonny had told me about it but I couldn't remember which one you were doing. He was trying to get me to do it. Yeah right, I'm too fat and out of shape. Anyways, thanks, we are loving the town, the church, and life in general.

Diana said...

Well, all I know is that I had never heard the story before. It really made me think. But then again, may I remind you that I haven't been a Christian as long as the rest of you, so I haven't had to think about such matters as much. Sure it's a cheesy story, but it serves it's purpose to non-believers and new-believers.

Mat Brewster said...

You'll have to forgive us old, bitter christians Diana. Like I said before I think these types of stories serve a purpose.

Jason pretty much nailed it when he talked about the power of a story. This particular one is a bit cheesy and not exactly great literature, but it hits a certain emotional spot (especially for mothers, and mothers-to-be I'm sure) and puts the sacrifice that God made on a certain more understandable level. And that' aint bad. And there's certainly nothing wrong with enjoying the story.

Diana said...

I agree. I told this story to someone who's not in the Lord's church and she about started crying on me.

I just wanted to remind everyone that just because you've heard it a billion times, doesn't mean everyone has. :)

Ryan F. said...

Amen.

X-orter said...

You want to hear something sad? I know for a fact that I used that exact illustration in a devo while at Faulkner. I remember that it was a devo on the steps of the rotunda...I seem to remember that Charlie was in the audience. Anyway, I had heard my father use it in one of his sermons. I think that the only critique that we might levy against it is that with each retelling it becomes even more distorted. Since this story has been told by so many preachers for many generations who knows what the "original" sounded like.

Here's another one of those type of stories for you...How many have heard the one about the boy who told his mother one day upon noticing her scarred face that she was ugly. She, of course, cried. Years later the boy learned that she had been badly burned while saving his life from the ravages of a house fire. From that moment on, the boy's mother became beautiful to him because he knew that her scars represented her sacrifice in sparing his life.

Maybe Brewster or one of you can look to see if Scopes has anything to say about that one. (If you are interested.)

Diana said...

I like that. I'm a sap for stories like that. During my internship I read a book to my kids with a story like that. I actually started crying in front of my class. It turned out to be a good teachable moment, because I talked about how books can make us feel things.

Jamison said...

Speaking of sermon stories that we all have heard... it makes me (and I am sure other 'seasoned' christians) total ENVY new Christians... like Diana... sometimes I am like "Why cant I hear a story like that and be touched? Why can't I feel the way a new Christian feels when they pray".... things like that. I spent YEARS practicing a religion that had become habit and a religion that I had taken all the info that MAN put in my head and I produced nothing with it but condemnation to others... now I try to read the bible at face value and take what a preacher says with a grain of salt (no offence at all to present preachers... but you are but men). Sometimes I think it would do a habit-Christian some good to "hit rock bottom" and feel empty and distant from god to appreciate their faith like new Christians do...