Monday, August 11, 2008

Unfinished business before fading to black

I'm going "off the air" for a couple of weeks.

It's that time.

Before the screen fades to black — or white or light ... we have one piece of unfinished business — that anonymous quotation from a couple of days ago. It's the one that skewered Christianity.

("Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity....")

The author was Thomas Paine, the same Thomas Paine who perhaps more than any single person is responsible for America's independence. The quote is from his "Age of Reason," which did not condemn Christ, the historical Jesus, but the religionists who seized on his name and twisted its message to their own, often brutal, ends.

Newly independent Americans found their own "reasons" to reject Paine's anti-Christian treatise. Accordingly, Paine's pivotal role in our history was obscured until relatively recently.

"Age of Reason" was a refutation of all "revealed" religions (Jewish, Christian, and "Turkish"). Like so many other prominent American leaders and thinkers of the nation's early history, Paine was a Deist.

He explained the origin of his belief this way:

"If we consider the nature of our condition here, we must see there is no occasion for such a thing as revealed religion. What is it we want to know? Does not the creation, the universe we behold, preach to us the existence of an Almighty Power that governs and regulates the whole? And is not the evidence that this creation holds out to our senses infinitely stronger than anything we can read in a book that any impostor might make and call the word of God? As for morality, the knowledge of it exists in every man's conscience."

As a Quaker, I find it significant that Paine was raised as a Quaker and had this to say in "Age of Reason" about Quakerism. "The only sect that has not persecuted are the Quakers; and the only reason that can be given for it is that they are rather Deists than Christians. They do not believe much about Jesus Christ, and they call the scriptures a dead letter. Had they called them by a worse name, they had been nearer the truth."

Fade to black — or white or light ....

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Encountering a "Front End Manager"

I have a quibble with Food Front, the local cooperative grocery that will open a store here in Hillsdale soon.

First off, let me say how pleased I am that Food Front has decided to locate its second store here. The Hillsdale community and the co-op truly have embraced each other. Hundreds of us have plunked down $150 membership/ownerships as evidence of our support.

But this is no member/owner's quibble. No, this complaint makes common sense.

Or I hope it does.

It’s pretty simple. In the farmers’ market today I went to the Food Front booth to talk to the woman staffing it. I needed information for a story I’m doing. When I asked for her title so I could use it in the story, with some finality she said she was the “Front End Manager of the Hillsdale Store.”

“I can’t describe you as a ‘Front End’ manager,” I said. “My readers won’t know what that means.”

I paused. “By the way, what does it mean?”

She explained that she would be in charge of customer relations and the checkout department at the Hillsdale store. “Ohhhhh,” I said, buying time and trying to think up a way to describe her job in an understandable way, “Is it OK if I call you the Hillsdale store’s customer service manager?”

No, she said, that sounds too much like another person’s job at Food Front. “Just call me the “Hillsdale Front End Manager,” she insisted. “Everyone in the business knows what a ‘front end manager’ is.”

“But that doesn’t help my readers,” I countered. “The title sounds as though you run part of a body shop or a section of an auto assembly line. It doesn’t communicate anything meaningful to the customers, whom you are trying to serve. In fact, it suggests that you are so caught up in the internal workings of your organization that you can’t communicate with your customers in terms they understand.”

Actually, despite her weird title, she was communicating very well. She was helpful and courteous and, I hope, accepting of my concern. Besides, I’d decided to fudge the whole “front end manager’ issue and to call her generically “a manager at the store.”

Still, as a member/owner, I left her with the suggestion that she and her superiors think about changing her job title to something that would be, literally, meaningful.

Besides, the title raised another weird issue: Is there a rear end manager?

I was afraid to ask.

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