Thursday, April 01, 1999

April 1, 1996

Mixed-up Reviews
A story of a Very sick tree.

by Paul Bunyan

"Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy." So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.

But on closer examination this story turns out to be more about a sick relationship rather then a tender story aglow with consolation.

"As the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave." This one-sided relationship is the very definition of codependency.

The selfish boy is bad enough. He crowns himself King of the forest and otherwise shows his selfish nature. There is no recognition that this tree is a part of God's holy creation. As an environmentalist, I was appalled by the boy's poor stewardship.

Starting off small as a boy with "give me your leaves" until, as an old man, he has taken everything from the tree. And what has the boy done in return? He did take his pocket knife and carve his initials into the tree not once but twice. Mostly it is a story of neglect; "the boy stayed away for a long time."

My major disappointment is with the tree. All this suffering and there is no sign of growth on the part of the tree. The tree is forever trying to recapture the time when the boy swung in her branches.

The boy grew older, but the tree stayed the same. Each time that the boy returned, the tree would ask the boy to swing from her branches. The tree never got past this point it their relationship.

What excuse does the tree have for this abuse? The book would have you believe that the tree loved the little boy. This is not a good model of love that we should be presenting to our impressionable children.

I was happy with this book… but not really.

Paul Bunyan is a lumberjack and he's okay. He sleeps all night and he works all day. He cuts down trees; he eats his lunch; he goes to the lavatory. On Wednesdays he goes shopping, and has buttered scones for tea.

Mixed-up Reviews critiques books, films, and other products of the entertainment media that speak to Brethren, Sisters, or Orphans living out their faith. The reviews are not to be taken as the
Gospel Messenger's endorsement, necessarily. Rather, we present them as helpful information for readers who encounter the subjects they treat.
April 1, 1995

General Board Approves Bold, new Slogan

At its October meeting, the General Board approved a bold, new identity line, aimed at defining its niche in the marketplace of US churches and helping it "leverage" itself in the 1990s and beyond.

The line: "Church of the Brethren: We're Kind of Like the Mennonites."

The new slogan grew out of an extensive $2.2 million study conducted by MennoCorp, a marketing and imaging firm loosely associated with the Mennonite Church.

MennoCorp head Levi Smucker was on hand at the Board Meeting to unveil and explain the new slogan. Said Smucker, "In the hundreds of focus groups we conducted, we asked thousands of Brethren to tell us who they are. Again and again we heard 'Oh, uh, we're kind of like the Mennonites.' It became very clear to us that this, indeed, is who you are, or at least who you ought to be. We're quite convinced that this identity line will immediately raise the profile of the Brethren. And even if it doesn't, it certainly will raise the profile of the Mennonites."

Reactions to the new Brethren slogan were largely positive. One sister at the Board meeting gushed, "I've always known deep in my heart that this is who we were but I never could find the right words. MennoCorp has articulated for me what I've always known to be true."

Several General Board staff objected to the slogan, however, on the grounds that it was too sectarian for mainline Brethren. One staff person suggested that the statement be edited slightly from "Kind of Like the Mennonites" to "Kind of Like the Methodists," but the Board was hesitant to tamper with MennoCorp's masterful words.

Also rejected was a suggestion from the Brethren/Mennonite Caucus for Gay and Lesbian Concerns that the line "Kind of Like the Metropolitan Community Church" be substituted. A representative of the Womaen's Caucus spoke vehemently against the slogan on the grounds that it contains the words "Brethren" and "Men." As a long shot alternative, the Caucus suggested "Church of Reconciliation: As Inclusive as We Wanna Be."

MennoCorp has done similar studies for other Brethren agencies and institutions in recent years, all displaying a genius for finding just the right words. Among slogans developed by MennoCorp: "Bridgewater College: Sort of Like Eastern Mennonite;" "Manchester College: Vaguely Resembling Goshen;" "LaVerne University: Really Not Anything like Fresno Pacific;" "Bethany Theological Seminary: A Far Cry com AMBS;" "The Brethren Foundation: Somewhat Similar to the Mennonite Foundation, Only Not as Wealthy;" and "BVS: In the Vein of Mennonite Volunteer Service, But Without All the Christian Baggage."