That’s why I don’t answer the phone

Someone in our newsroom sent out this e-mail globally a few minutes ago:

Has anyone else  gotten a call from the woman who wants to talk about movie reivews, The State and the SC Supreme Court not displaying the American flag, Daniel Craig in "Defiance,"
China and the Germans? Among other things.

No, thank goodness — although that sounds just like a lot of calls I get.

When I became editorial page editor, I had to stop answering my publicized land line — which I felt really bad about, since my whole career I had valued accessibility. But I found that editorial page editors get a kind of call that other journalists don't get — the very nice people who, when they find out they're talking to the EPE, want to talk about every issue under the sun. And since they are nice people, I have a very hard time getting off the phone. When I DO make the mistake of answering it, it's not unusual for me to be trapped for half and hour, and sometimes more. Which I cannot do, and do all the other stuff I have to do in a day — especially if I'm going to read my e-mail, and communicate with y'all here on the blog.

Once, I had someone to answer the phone for me — and get me on the line if necessary. No more. Now I have to let the machine get it, and get back to people as I am able — something I apologize for, but I don't know how else to manage the time.

If someone really NEEDS to talk to me (not just chat) and they're not available when I call them back, I leave my cell number — which I always answer.

It's really, really imperfect, but I haven't figured a better way to get through the day. And yes, I've consulted people about time management, and you know what they always say? I try to do too much. Answering the phone is one of the few things I've given up.

20 thoughts on “That’s why I don’t answer the phone

  1. Brad Warthen

    Feeling guilty after writing this, I answered the next two times my office line rang. Good thing on the first one — it was a source (Thom Berry at DHEC) I had asked to call me back on my cell, and he’d gotten the number wrong. I very much needed to hear from him.
    The next one was a longtime friend and source who I ended up chatting pleasantly with for about 15 or 20 minutes, which I could ill afford…
    There are no easy answers, not for someone who has as much trouble saying “goodbye” as I do.

  2. Reader

    The woman asks a relevant question. Why DON’T y’all display the American flag?
    Is it for the same reason that a certain Catholic church, a certain bank (Bank of America), certain public libraries, certain SisterCare administrative offices, certain other places that have bare poles?

  3. Reader

    OK. Well, that answers that.

    I heard the church doesn’t display one because some woman ripped the one they had off the pole because it was ratty-looking and a disgrace to our proud American heritage. I heard that the woman bought the church a new one at K-mart, but that the church still wouldn’t put up the new flag. This after said woman even specified the cost of the K-mart flag as an itemized charitable deduction on her federal income tax return.
    Tell the woman next time she calls to get with Jakie to propose a new law that all bare flag poles either fly the US flag, or be promptly and ceremoniously hewn down, under penalty of law.

  4. Brad Warthen

    Yeah, I recently replaced the one I fly at my house, because it was pretty worn out.
    I’m not sure what to do with the old one, though. Ironically, I think the recommended course is to burn it…

  5. Brad Warthen

    And you raise an interesting point: SHOULD a church fly a national flag? I mean, a Christian church is about Christ, who said his kingdom is not of this world…
    I don’t feel strongly about it, but whenever I have been in churches that prominently display the flag — say, near the pulpit or altar — I find myself wondering whether that’s right. I will honor the flag in every way short of religious idolatry. And putting a flag near an altar — or a pulpit, for those who don’t have altars — seems a little close to idolatry. And something about that not only seems unChristian, but unAmerican…
    I want to fully honor God, and fully honor my country — but I want to know the difference between them.

  6. Reader

    I think the woman at the church wadded the old ratty one up in the K-mart bag and left it on the office front porch in between two stacked plastic chairs. No disrespect. Simply a pragmatic waiting place for the holy water sprinklings and recitals, or whatever priests do with old, ratty U.S.A. flags.

  7. Reader

    If they need separation, they can fly the Christian flag. Just put an appropriate flag on the ugly-old-empty flag pole.
    The Baptists can order them a Christian flag from the Baptist Book Store. I think you have to be a member. They will probably give it to them at cost.

  8. Herb Brasher

    The chaplain of the Senate got it right in his prayer of thanksgiving at the luncheon on Tuesday–something like, “all the kingdoms of the earth are under Your control, and none is superior to the other” a paraphrase, of course, but I was surprised how candid he was.
    Reformed apologist Francis Schaeffer said a generation ago that we ought to get the American flag out of our churches. I concur, and I especially cringe when there is some kind of special gathering with many national flags, and the US flag gets elevated above the others. We ought never to give the opinion that being a Christian is somehow connected with being an American. If Christians of other nationalities come to our church, they ought to feel perfectly at home–or at least they should not feel that they do not belong because this is somehow an “American church service.”
    In Germany I never once saw a German flag in a church, and never once did we sing a patriotic song in a church service. That is the way it should be, I think.

  9. phillip

    Herb’s mentioning that he never saw a German flag at a church raises another interesting point, in relation to Brad’s mention of replacing the flag he flies at his house…
    In what other countries of the world (outside of dictatorships where that sort of thing is mandated) do people fly the national flag outside of their private residences?

  10. Karen McLeod

    Herb, You’ve never sung patriotic hymns in your church at Memorial Day Services or Independence day services?

  11. Herb Brasher

    Of course I have. But I have very great reservations about doing so, though on the face of it, I’m happy to ask God “to bless America.” Nothing necessarily wrong with that, or for that matter to recognize those who have put their lives on the line in military service. We can honor their sacrifice and commitment. But putting an American flag in a church somehow suggests that there is a connection between worshipping God and American government, or that the American government/military is somehow doing God’s work. I have been embarrassed at times for international students attending church, because it seems obvious that there is some kind of American Gospel. It is a “Christ + America” creation–different in form, yet similar in idea to what the Apostle Paul combats in the Epistle to the Galatians.
    I don’t have a problem when at a missions conference in church, flags of many nations are presented, but I do have a problem when the American flag is elevated above the others. The Church of Jesus Christ is above all national government and allegiances.
    I remember that we sang the German national anthem only once in a Bible college chapel service, and that was on November 10, 1989, the day after the re-unification process was obviously beginning. I didn’t start it–other (German, obviously) faculty did, but many students weren’t happy with it. The faculty member who started it gave a five-minute apologetic speech beforehand in order to explain that it was only in expressing thanks to God, not to suggest that Germany was somehow God’s chosen people that was accomplishing His purposes.
    Given German history, the hesitancy to somehow create a civil religion–or even to be patriotic–is understandable.
    I ramble–but the line between thanking God for freedom, plus recognizing the role that Christians have had in political steps forward (and East German churches played a major role in such) and on the other hand creating an idolatry of pride in our nationality, is a very thin one.
    Hmmm. I’m tired. I’ll have to think more about how to express the above exactly and succinctly. In case anybody is interested . . . Or maybe someone else can do it better. Reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer helps–he saw clearly the dangers of mixing national pride with my identity before God.
    I checked Reader’s link, but it doesn’t work, and I have no idea what he is talking about.

  12. Karen McLeod

    Herb, I, too, see the difference between praying for our country and presuming that “God is on our side.” I just wish everyone else did.

  13. Herb Brasher

    I’m thinking in particular of Bonhoeffer’s statement that “there is no salvation outside of the Confessing Church,” thereby totally rejecting the legitimacy of the civil religion of the Protestant Church under their Nazi-appointed Reichs-bishop. He would not compromise, even when many of his colleagues pleaded with him to do so. Our situation is different, but we still need to be very wary of the tendency of politics to try and make use of religion for its purposes. Chuck Colson warned of such a generation ago after Nixon made use of Billy Graham to further his political ends. Of course it is good and proper for a churchman to give thanks to God at an inauguration when asked to do so. But church and state must be kept separate, so the church can speak to the state about what is just and right, and the state can preserve a climate of freedom of religion.
    I see danger in an American flag being in the front of a church–the separation is endangered. On the other side, if the government begins to monitor what a pastor is speaking from the pulpit and to limit legitimate free speech, the separation is endangered as well.

  14. Herb Brasher

    Thanks, Karen. I always thought it was interesting that the person that evangelicals in Germany chose to take up the mantel of Billy Graham in that country (and Graham suggested him as his “successor”), Ulrich Parzany, was for years a member of the socialist party (SPD). I think he may have pulled out in order not to unnecessarily anger his brothers and sisters who are Christian Democrats (or even members of the very tiny “Bible-faithful Christian Party”). But he is still “socialist” in his political views, and a very effective evangelist and preacher (as well as being a Lutheran pastor and former head of the YMCA). German Christians have a good mix of political views within their fellowships.

  15. Karen McLeod

    I have a hard time with any politician who goes out of his way to point out his attachment to any church or religion. Of course, I expect anyone’s beliefs to inform the choices they make, and a true christian knows that he/she is called to be servant to others, not master. But when I see a politician using his faith affiliation to collect followers, I start wondering if he/she doesn’t want us to believe that he has a direct line to God (and therefore following him is following God’s will). Several of our past presidents have done that before, generally with unhappy results. Christ calls us to follow him; but where he goes leads to the cross. It is to Christians the Way to go, but if a lot of people are following you, either they don’t know where you’re going, or you’re going somewhere else.

  16. Reader

    Sorry the link didn’t work, Herb. It’s a new blog I have discovered: SUNLIT UPLANDS.
    Wow. Thanks either to Brad or to Jakie (I’m thinking Brad), there is a flag on the pole at the Catholic church. It is an American flag. And it is >>>beautiful<<<. Though I shall probably never again darken their doorway due to other troubled waters, not entirely of my own making, I am so happy for any future OCD/uber patriotic parishioners that just feel very strongly about naked flag poles. This has a long history -- with a certain elected official trying to herd me from my chosen course of profession >>> CPA <<< into a stripper for his own selfish and, might I add, devil-ridden, PSYCHOTIC, needs. He would even go so far as to have pickups with huge bare poles in their flat beds ride around in front of me as an added enticement whilst I motivate about my temporary place of residence here in SC. May he rot in Hell. ### 🙂

  17. Herb Brasher

    Thanks Karen, for your very thoughtful comments. The way of Christ is, of course, totally opposed to the way human government operates, which is all about power and how to manipulate it. But Christians can and should inform and influence power in good ways. Too often it has been the other way around.
    I appreciate your taking the time to post some comments to my ramblings which I’m afraid are scratching where few people are itching.

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