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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Sushi Night


Last night we made sushi again. It was awesome! It keeps getting better and better every time we make it. And, we're getting faster with it, which is a good thing since sushi can seem to take forever to make. Here's a picture of just some of the rolls we made. We went a little overboard and made a total of 13 rolls. We had California rolls, eel rolls, shrimp rolls, and we even tried Mahi Mahi rolls both cooked and raw. We also made seafood sauce and used store bought wasabi mayonnaise and eel sauce to dip it all in. It was all delicious.

We made so much of it, though, that we also had it for breakfast and lunch today, not that we're complaining. It's the fastest breakfast and lunch there is since you're supposed to eat it chilled anyway. From the fridge to my mouth. I guess that all the time that it takes to make is made up for all the time that is saved later with the left-overs.

Coffeyville, KS

48 hours ago, I was dropped off at my friend's house. He, another friend, and I were all heading off to Coffeyville, Kansas to do a job. We're done with it now, and we're all home, but while we were there an interesting thing happened. At about 4:00 PM on Wednesday, from our hotel room, I heard the sound of a marching band. I looked out the window to find a parade slowly passing our hotel.

It was a neat little parade that was full of the things that you normally see in one. There were antique cars, riders on horseback, wagons, a military Hummer with soldiers on top, fire trucks, police cruisers, a marching band, etc. Candy was being tossed to children. People all over were smiling. I was entertained for several minutes just sitting on the curb taking in the sights and festive atmosphere but soon I realized that I had a rather drab view from the hotel's parking lot so I decided to set out on foot and see some of the other older buildings in town.

I knew nothing of Coffeyville other than that it had been, at one time, a relatively large producer of paver bricks. I've seen many antique bricks in many places that bear the name of Coffeyville, like the one pictured here. I've seen these bricks still in use today in downtown Springfield, MO, and in West Plains, MO. So, I was convinced that the town had enough history that there should be a significant amount of older buildings to see. It didn't take long to find some cool old buildings just around the first corner. I headed up Maple to 9th and then 8th. Here I found several square blocks of historic brick storefronts, factories, and government office buildings. It was a really nice area. Massive cement awnings had been built along the fronts and sides of buildings to shade the 12 and 14 foot wide sidewalks.

Over the past 48 hours, I've worked 20 hours during the night when normally I'd be sleeping. So, my concept of time and even the day of the week was a little skewed for me. As the parade began to wrap up after having zig-zagged through the downtown streets, I realized something. It was Wednesday afternoon. All the people I had passed weren't working. The stores were all open but they were empty. Even the owners and employees of the stores were out on the sidewalks watching the parade. The town was hosting this parade, with very good attendance, I might add, at a time when most communities wouldn't dream of "interfering with business" to have one. I was witnessing American Culture right before me as I had read about, heard about, and seen only in movies. These people were halting their day to revel in something together that was completely unseen. Community.

'Comforting' is the only word I can use that describes, if only partially, the feeling I got when I saw that almost everyone in the parade wasn't just waving at the crowd like you see in large televised parades. They were really waving to friends and neighbors that they knew. "Hi, Tina!", "Hey, Chris!", "Oh, there's Lisa!" and many other shouts from one to another could be heard as I walked. It was an interesting 45-minute stroll that I'm thankful I got to witness.

It was reported on a nation-wide news show a while back that this economic recession might encourage people to live more simple lives. They predicted that, we would all need to lean a little more on each other and that families will be strengthened as family values grow, towns may start to live in closer community, and that people in general will be more friendly to each other.

I don't know if any of this has been occurring nation-wide but I do know that I saw something in Coffeyville that I want. I saw something that I believe we all desire. I saw a community of neighbors.

Book Review: A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren


A Generous Orthodoxy’s Lesson on Intellectual Dishonesty

By Levi Felton


To begin, allow me to point out that this is not a book review like you may be used to reading them, but more closely described as a paper on intellectually dishonest arguments. I am using the book a Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren as my sole example because I have yet to read a book that has had as many intellectually dishonest arguments within its pages as it has. If you are looking for a book review, as one would more commonly be written, a quick search of the internet will provide several. If, however, you are looking for a review of sorts from a different perspective or a unique angle, look no further than below.

What is an intellectually dishonest argument? This may be better answered by asking what the opposite is. An intellectually honest argument is one where a person reveals errors or omissions in their opponent’s facts and/or logic. All other arguments fall into the category of intellectually dishonest for they attempt to prove the opponent wrong by attacking something other than the facts or logic of the argument the opponent has made.

The list of intellectually dishonest arguments that you will find here is not complete and in no particular order. There are plenty more being used all over the world even as you are reading this very sentence. I have two goals to accomplish with this paper. The first is to discredit Brian McLaren’s book a Generous Orthodoxy. The second is to encourage others to learn the dishonest tactics of debate. When you learn these tactics and get yourself very acquainted with them, you’ll find that people use them more than you could have ever imagined and it will make you a better debater. Also, you will catch yourself from formulating your own arguments in dishonest ways and save yourself some embarrassment from getting caught. Let’s begin.

Note: I have (or had depending on when you are reading this) the paperback copy, so if you have the book and are looking up pages I reference and you cannot find what I have quoted then it may be due to a separate printing. I do know for a fact that the hard cover edition does have the pages numbered differently from the paperback. Let us hope that there will not be more than one edition of the paperback printed to save further page number confusion, amongst other reasons.

1. Argument from Age (Wisdom of the Ancients)

This is when a very old (or very young) argument is supposedly superior because of its age. The market will use phrases like, “Old Fashioned Biscuits” and “New and Improved.” McLaren uses this tactic several times but in the opposite form. He argues that the theology the Christian church has held as truth for so long is no longer valid in this post-modern society. Another way that he uses this form of argument is when he states that he’s “been around long enough and involved deeply enough” (pg. 25). He does this again when he says that he “learned the hard way” and that it’s his “most valuable credential.” (pg. 22)

2. Poisoning the Wells

This intellectually dishonest argument is when a person discredits the sources used by their opponent. I cannot use just one or two page numbers here. Ultimately, the premise of the entire book is that nearly everything Christians have learned needs to be unlearned. All sources are, in McLaren’s eyes, already poisoned and he uses name-calling, generalizations, assumptions, and stereotypes to paint this picture. One thing that the reader will notice a lot is the use of the ‘post’ prefix (i.e. post-Protestant, post-Liberal, post-Conservative, post-modern, etc.). He attempts to redefine religious terms after unabashedly attacking them as to demonstrate that all people feel the same way about them and therefore they need redefining. This new definition categorizes people as “post” which means ‘after’ even though he tries to make it sound better by stating it means ‘comes from’. This forces the reader into believing that he/she cannot be associated with one of these old terms and still be following Christ by McLaren’s standards.

3. Confusing Correlation with Causation

Just because an event takes place near the time another event takes place does not mean that one caused the other, yet some people will suggest this is true in their arguments. McLaren uses it when he describes his experiences with the conservative Protestant church and the Pentecostal church (pg. 51-59). McLaren’s experiences are written not like his own personal experiences but rather like it’s true of all people who go to any church under these banners. He assumes that because his own correlation with these church organizations led to a certain experience that it was the organization itself that caused it and that it would be and has been true of everyone else affiliated with it.

4. Reifying

Reifying is when an abstract thing is talked about as if it were concrete. McLaren overstates the seven Jesuses quite purposefully so that they appear to be pieces to a larger puzzle; wrong to be by themselves and thinking that “they are it”; right if unified with the whole. This is a complete fabrication worded in such a way to work around McLaren’s views and agenda.

5. Needling

This is when someone attempts to make the other person angry without trying to address the argument at hand. McLaren does this many times but specifically on page 183 when he asserts that the Bible is to equip God’s people to do good works, not to have the answers. So, anyone who feels that the Bible does have answers to life’s questions is left to feel foolish and like they are not following Jesus properly. He doesn’t attempt to show how or why answers cannot be found nor does he list any scripture that backs this different view. McLaren even goes as far to link (pg 177) the belief of having answers in the Bible with “moderately-educated people.”
Near the beginning of the book (pg 40) McLaren warns the reader that he is unfair. He states, “I am consistently over-sympathetic to Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, even dreaded liberals, while I keep elbowing my conservative brethren in the ribs in a most annoying…way.” This is the definition of needling.

6. Straw Man (Fallacy of Extension)

A straw man argument is one where someone, rather than attack their opponent’s argument, sets up a similar but different “example” of their opponent’s argument and then attacks it instead, leaving the original argument virtually unscathed. McLaren tells a parable (pg 155-158) to the reader in Chapter 8. In the story one group splits into two when a difficulty arises and both groups take different paths but both seem to be destined to fail in their survival. After the parable he likens the two groups to conservatives and liberals and states that in order for survival they are both going to have to change, etc. The parable should have began, “Reader, I would like to introduce you to this straw man.”

7. Argument from Adverse Consequences (Appeal to Fear, Scare Tactics)

McLaren contends that the Old Testament is simply not God’s word to people in our time. It, instead, was “God’s word to people back then.” He recounts many examples of violent acts and states that they mis-read the Old Testament. He commends a few well-known peaceful people saying that they have it right. In the end, he contends that there is nothing to learn from the Old Testament except what not to do. This compounds McLaren’s belief that works are what it means to follow Jesus. (This point is solidified by Gandhi being used as an example of someone who followed the way of Christ) The reader is left with a feeling that any belief that the Bible is God’s word to our generation can and will eventually lead to ethnic cleansing being justified. (pg 189)

8. Excluded Middle (False Dichotomy, Faulty Dilemma, Bifurcation)

This is when someone falsely makes a position out to seem like there are only two options to choose from. For example, an old Donald Duck cartoon was so filled with World War 2 propaganda that it taught the children who watched it that either you gave your money to pay your taxes and were patriotic and had the approval of the “Uncle Sam” character (ironically played by Scrooge McDuck) or you spent your money unwisely which made you a Nazi supporter. McLaren (pg 183) makes it appear that either the reader accept that the purpose of scripture is to equip people to do good works or the reader will end up out of God’s will for themselves and the world. There is no middle presented. The truth, though, is that neither is correct.

9. Special Pleading (Stacking the Deck)

McLaren only uses those biblical excerpts that support his liberal wants and desires. This is done to the extent that he not only ignores the Bible verses and stories that teach otherwise, but doubts their validity or even attempts to prove them wrong (sometimes just coming out claiming the possibility of their fallacy).

10. Argument by Question

This is probably the most widely used tactic that McLaren uses. The very nature of a Generous Orthodoxy is that no one is wrong as long as he/she is generous in a liberal/social context. This means that anyone who claims Generous Orthodoxy cannot answer divisive questions. This does not, however, stop McLaren from asking them. For example: (pg 108) McLaren makes what may be his most pointed and concentrated attack in the book. He poses in a barrage of questions that personal salvation leads to terrible outcomes in the way that most churches use it. Question after question is asked but no statement is made. There is great safety in using questions to attempt to make a point. First, there seems to be virtually no accountability to the one posing them after all he/she didn’t lead people astray by telling them something incorrect; they were just asking questions. Second, you cannot be proven wrong if you say nothing. Let us not forget that it was the serpent in the Garden of Eden that led man to sin by questioning first what Adam and Eve believed. While, I realize this seems to be taking it a little too far, in comparing the tactics used by Brian McLaren and Satan, my point is not to liken the two but rather to demonstrate the use of dishonesty in the form of questions and its obvious negative effects on those who are subjected to it.

11. Argument by Rhetorical Question (Loaded Question)

A rhetorical question is one where it is asked but in such a way that the one answering is led to answer a certain way. This is a very popular form of intellectual dishonesty. A courtroom would call it, “leading the witness.” McLaren uses it (pg 108) here as if he is intentionally teaching the reader how to use only rhetorical questions to make an argument. Every question is loaded and leads like a leash and collar. The reader will answer these questions in their head just as McLaren designed them to be answered. Using these answers, then placed in the reader’s minds, he structures latter questions to make it appear that all these answers have only one conclusion: his intended target.

12. Genetic Fallacy (Fallacy of Origins, Fallacy of Virtue)

This fallacious argument is one rarely spoken but rather implied. The idea is that things or people from that social class, or origin, have virtue or lack virtue. Therefore the actual details of the argument can be overlooked since correctness can be decided without any need to listen, study, or think. McLaren traveled from one denomination to the next and the readers are led to believe that he spent a significant amount of time with each of them and that he was there long enough to be considered one of them. Few people skip through denominations like McLaren has and so, to the reader, he comes off as having truly been a part of all these different views. By being an accepted part of them he establishes himself as being correct in all he says about them. Readers will tend not to question or doubt Catholics about what they say about Catholicism. Quite the opposite, rather, readers will assume that they are experts on the subject. Sometimes a person will directly make this argument by saying something like, “Take it from me. I’m a …”

13. Argument by Personal Charm

This is a tactic used to get your audience to cut you slack. Charm may create trust, or the desire to “join the winning team”, or the desire to please the speaker. McLaren appears to be a charming guy through his writing style. He may appear to be modest. Many will believe that he is helping along some very charming goals including loving and accepting everyone for who they are, working towards a peaceful society, and the great financial equalizer commonly referred to as socialism. McLaren illustrates throughout the book how all the modernistic ways of belief and doing things are going to become extinct in this new “post-modernistic world.” He suggests that we must all change our ways of thinking to a Generous Orthodoxy to survive and in that process we will all be better for it, as will the world. These “join the winning team” tactics can be seen on (pg 155-158) in a parable he tells. Another example is (pg 183) when he lays out two polarizations with a clear “winner,” but the “loser” is “losing” because, according to McLaren, how they view the Bible is wrong and ungodly.

14. Appeal to Pity (Appeal to Sympathy, The Galileo Argument)

Some authors want their readers to know that they are suffering for their beliefs. They’ll tell how they cannot get a fair hearing and that if only people would listen to them that they would see that their seemingly radical beliefs are actually right. In McLaren’s book there is a chapter that comes after the two forewords and the introduction, but before chapter one. It is called Chapter Zero – A Generous Refund. It’s a warning to the reader. Nine times (I counted) he suggests to the reader that he/she should seek to return the book where they purchased it and that hopefully it isn’t too late to receive a refund. These warnings come off, and I believe they were meant to, as more than a dare than a sincere warning. These are aimed at the rebel who is ripe for the picking. He even says at the end of the chapter that he is primarily writing to the Christians who are about to leave the church for disagreeing with the doctrinal distinctives and to the spiritual seekers who are attracted to Jesus but don’t feel that they fit in any church for their differing beliefs. The entire chapter describes how McLaren will be the subject of scrutiny and will have everything that he is about questioned. He states that people will say he needs professional counseling, he’s na├»ve, and that he’s only trying to validate non-conservative positions. He seems confident rather than pitiful, though. One can easily see where this attitude about it further appeals to the rebel. His ultimate appeal to pity/sympathy while also appealing to the rebel is in the statement he makes about how the reader may not even want to be seen with the book for risk of “guilt by association”. (pg 42) He exaggerates his own need for protection against those who disagree with him by stating that he plans to change his name and join a witness protection program.

15. Stolen Concept

This dishonest argument is when you use the very thing that you are trying to disprove. It’s arguing in circles no less than when dogs chase their tails. McLaren uses the Bible and claims to be biblical, but also states simultaneously that it isn’t correct about what it says. His view of how the books were written breeds doubt about all of it. He says that the books were written by men and that as such they are full of bias, the author’s personality, and heavily influenced by societal structures at the time of their writing. He even goes as far to point out that some people don’t even believe that the witness accounts of Jesus were true, but that they were works of fiction to inspire. He then applauds these people’s belief and actions (pg 67-68). For an easy read on a more in-depth study on the reliability of the Bible, I suggest Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ.

16. Argument from False Authority

The opposite, argument from authority, is to claim that the arguer is an expert in the area being argued. In contrast, an argument from false authority states that the arguer is not an expert in the area being argued and therefore you should trust him. It’s strange, I know, but McLaren uses it in chapter zero (pg 38) when he mentions that he is neither a trained theologian nor a legitimate pastor. He instead is an English major who says he is a “confessed amateur.” He then attempts to glorify this by saying, “you may define amateur as ‘one who works for love not money.’” As if professionals aren’t as qualified since they are only doing it for a paycheck, McLaren suggests here with this statement that his heart is more in it than they. Could it not also be suggested that professional’s hearts are in it more since they suffered through all the grueling work to get to a place where they know what they know?

17. Pious Fraud

This sort of fraud is one that is meant to accomplish some good end, on the theory that the end justifies the means. In chapter 10, McLaren gives the reader a diagram attempting to illustrate how the world has been gradually getting less and less violent. Maybe only in America can a reader see this and not immediately wonder what rock McLaren’s been living under. The ethnic cleansing in Sudan, the constant struggle between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the almost daily suicide bombings to which we’ve grown accustomed, the terrorist attacks, the growing tension and nuclear threats between North Korea and the United States, and the epidemic of sexual slavery all point to a very violent world of clashing empires. This is exactly how McLaren describes the distant past where his diagram begins. He also mentions (pg 69) how we are getting closer to “God’s will being done on Earth which includes the extinction of war.” Later (pg 187) he proposes that God wants a nonviolent and kind humanity. While this may be true, a Generous Orthodoxy’s assumption is a complete transfer of priority. These statements are to set up the fraud that we are moving towards peace on Earth through our own efforts and that it is in this way that God wants it done. While the end, if believed, may be a good one, socially speaking, it still does not justify the means. This aside, it is rather opposite of what the end times sound like coming from Jesus’ own mouth. (Matthew 24:4)

18. Inconsistency

This is simply when someone’s thought processes in separate statements are contradictory in their nature. McLaren gives us an obvious example of this kind of intellectual dishonesty when (pg 22) he admits, “In a way I wish every reader could pretend to be…exploring the Christian story…for the first time.” Two sentences later, he says, “I often think my most valuable credential is my vast repertoire of stupid mistakes through the years, mistakes that can’t help but teach their perpetrator something the hard way.” In the first statement he discounts those that have any previous knowledge or experience, and then counts his own as “his most valuable credential.”

19. Argument by Prestigious Jargon

Many people use large complicated words to argue with and it will often give the listener the illusion that the user of these words is educated. Many listeners won’t even ask for a definition if they don’t know it in fear of embarrassment. I, personally, have found that those people who know what they are talking about and are confident of it being true will refrain from using language rarely used for the sake of helping the listener understand. McLaren is pretty good about using common language. However, this can be seen in the first foreword written by Phyllis Tickle. The following two excerpts are from her:

“What mattered was that, in aggregate, they revealed the conventions and structures of established religion as more human than divine in both its origin and consequence.”

And

“As a blow to the hegemony of enfranchised institutions, the impact of the printing press can best be understood today as analogous…”

If you understand immediately what is being said here to the extent of being able to explain it to someone else in everyday terms then congratulations are in order. If, however, like me, you had to look up the definition of a word or two so as not to rely on the context for meaning and had to re-read the sentences a few times to just somewhat comprehend the point being made then don’t feel bad. Surely, you are in a category with the majority. That being said, it’s important when writing a book, paper, review, or even foreword that we write so that it is understood especially when writing about something that may have eternal consequences attached.

20. Appeal to Widespread Belief (Bandwagon Argument, Peer Pressure, Appeal to Common Practice)

Even non-Christians understand that the Bible tells us to do good things. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has argued with that. McLaren takes it a step further by, quite assertively, stating that the purpose of scripture is to equip people to do good works. The word ‘purpose’ here begs an argument. While the Bible does, in fact, instruct to do many good things it never, anywhere, states that the performing of good deeds is its purpose of existence. However, McLaren would have us believe this hook, line, and sinker since the widely understood general view of the Bible seems to support it.

21. Having Your Cake (Failure to Assert, Diminished Claim)

This is when someone seems to be claiming something by giving arguments for it but then backs out or dismisses it at the end. Or, heard at the beginning of an argument, it might sound something like this, “I don’t necessarily believe it, but…” This way they can argue the point, but if proven wrong or if out-debated they can simply fall back on their original disclaimer of not believing it. McLaren does this (pg 67-68) when he throws out on the table that “some” believe that miracles in the Bible didn’t actually happen. He follows this with argument after argument of how these people are correct. He then sort of denies affiliation with them by saying that he believes “actual miracles can and do happen” but take notice that he fails to state whether or not he believes they did happen. Also, he follows even this statement with a disclaimer saying that the miracles, he believes happen, “create nearly as many problems as they solve.” He ends the subject “applaud(ing) (your) desire to live out the meaning of the miracle stories even when (you) don’t believe the stories really happened as written.” This is followed by a rebuke to “those who take pride in believing the miracles really happened but don’t seek to live out their meaning.” (Side note: notice he says ‘take pride’ when referring to those who believe in the biblical miracles. This makes it sound sinful to believe them. Also, note that all this is based off the ‘miracle stories’ meaning. Who determines their meaning? McLaren doesn’t explain what his interpreted meaning is.) In the end, we’re left wondering what he really believes, but his goal of having his cake and eating it, too, has been thoroughly accomplished in most reader’s minds.

22. Ambiguous Assertion

This is when a statement is made but it is sufficiently unclear that it leaves some sort of leeway. The statement may be vague and this can be done intentionally or unintentionally. This is similar to Having Your Cake, but not necessarily about a certain position in an argument. It’s broader, encompassing any statement or argument that leaves room for different positions or interpretations. For example, “Last night I shot a burglar in my pajamas.” Who was wearing the man’s pajamas? It could be read either way. McLaren leaves room in almost everything he says and even addresses his lack of clarity (pg 27) when he states that he has gone out of his way to be unclear so as to “stimulate more thought.”

23. Argument By Laziness

I covered this on number 16, Argument from False Authority, somewhat. I brought up McLaren’s boasting of not having any theology training. Argument by laziness is when a person doesn’t do the work or the studying but thinks that their opinion should be respected anyway. McLaren takes this even further by suggesting that his opinion might need to be even more respected because, unlike professional theologians, he does it for the love not the money.

24. Internal Contradiction

This is saying two or more contradictory things in the same argument. This is related to Inconsistency, however, an inconsistency does not necessarily have to be contradictory. McLaren’s theology contradicts itself when he consistently claims that we should follow Jesus’ example but also denies the validity of the witness accounts of Jesus’ life and teaching. How do we follow Bob’s example when everything we know about Bob is written by men whose writings are decidedly fictional? (See page 67 and the argument against the literal reading of miracles in the Bible)

25. Argument by Repetition

McLaren repeats himself several times about the purpose of scripture, among other things. In chapter 10, he words it differently each time and inserts it into somewhat different context but the repetition is not lost. “I believe (the Bible) is a gift from God, inspired by God, to benefit us in the most important way possible: equipping us so that we can benefit others…” (pg 177) “Perhaps the best way to use scripture is…to focus on our pursuit of mission. Then we will need Scripture to do what it was intended to do.” (pg 182) “The purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works.” (pg 183) “…biblical Christians have thrived when we’ve used the Bible with the goal of becoming good people who…do good works.” (pg 183) He also repeats in different ways what the purpose of scripture is not.

26. Statement of Conversion

This is simply a weak form of asserting expertise and so it is related to Argument from Authority. The speaker is implying that he has learned about the subject by being one of them and so he knows better than others, but now that he is “better informed” he has rejected the subject. McLaren does this several times as he describes the seven Jesuses that he met, but more specifically does it (pg 66) when he claims that he used to be deeply prejudiced against liberal and mainline Protestants. He implies here and solidifies the implication later that he, being “better informed,” is now liberal.

Deck Stairs

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Earlier this week, Jacob and I commenced building our back deck stairs. We have no deck to speak of yet, but we didn't let that stop us. Since the salon/studio project that began in December '07 and was completed around February '08 we have had a back door that leads to a 4 1/2 foot drop off. Jodi and I decided that there was no reason that we couldn't go ahead and build some stairs for our back door since we can just simply move the stairs when we build the deck and attach them to the deck where the plans were calling for a staircase just like it. So, without any waste involved, we went ahead with putting them together.

Jacob and I got it done in about 5 hours. Having them done built up the inspiration to fixing a door handle to our back door. I already had a good exterior door handle in the basement so it was installed and in perfect working order in less than 20 minutes. I wish that I had thought of it a long time ago. Since installing the door we had a dead bolt in it but no door handle. I had just shoved a handful of insulation into the hole to keep the air out.

It's really nice to finally be able to use the back door that we so long ago installed. To put it into perspective for you, it's like buying a brand new iPod and then waiting 18 months to buy a set of headphones. Of course, this is only similar if the iPod didn't come with headphones. Which, I'm pretty sure that they all do. So, you'll have to use your imagination to make this analogy work. Well, maybe it's just a bad analogy in the first place. A better one is like buying a brand new car and waiting 18 months to buy some gas for it. Except, that the car probably had at least a little gas in it to begin with, otherwise how else could you have brought it home. In the driving home you would've been able to use it. Hmm. Maybe I should just stop with the analogies.

Risky Banking


I turned 18 years old in June of 1997. One of the first things I did as a bona fide adult was to obtain a checking account. Up until that point I had dealt with all financial aspects of my life primarily in cash. This was fine to do since I didn't really have to pay for anything that wasn't within a few miles radius of my home. But, I saw the benefit of having a checking account so that I could pay my bills without having to actually meet with a person. This was really all the benefit that I saw. With a cash payment, you have to meet with an actual face so that the person can accept your cash payment and return you a receipt. With a check as payment it can simply be dropped in a drop box with the bill or even mailed.

Today, I can't remember why I chose Ozark Bank for my bank. They were somewhat conveniently located, I suppose, being less than a mile from my apartment. It was the closest bank, to be sure. But, allow me to tell you a story of why that choice became one that I would pay for.

For roughly four months, the only activity in my checking account had been deposits that I made to cover the checks that I wrote to pay my bills. I only deposited about the amount, rounded up, that I would need to write a check for. This eventually left me with a small surplus from all the rounded up amounts. I kept track, to the penny, of the amount that I had in my account by meticulously using the check register like I had been taught in my high school accounting classes. I was pretty responsible, I think.

One day, I found myself short on available cash and needed some gas in my car. I saw that I had about $13 in my account and so I wrote my very first check for something other than a bill. Rapid Roberts took my check and I took my $10 worth of gas. Everybody was happy, until a few days later when I received a letter from Ozark Bank stating that my account was overdrawn and that they rejected the $10 check from Rapid Roberts for insufficient funds. I immediately went down to the bank with the letter and spoke to a clerk at the counter who asked to see my register so that she could determine where I, not them, had made an error. That's when she found what I had done wrong. She said, "Oh, I see. You failed to record this $18 ATM fee." I was shocked and mad at this point. Did she seriously just say that? I remained calm and explained to her that I had only used the ATM one time to activate my card as directed on the card instructions and that I had done it using their ATM. She saw this transaction and then realized that it was an error on their part since an $18 ATM fee didn't even make sense by itself. She quickly and easily refunded the $18 fee and cancelled the "insufficient funds" fees bringing my account back to the approximate $13 and then asked, "Is there anything else that I can help you with today?" I said, "Yes, what are you going to do about the bounced check to Rapid Roberts?" She then had the nerve to say, "Oh, we're not responsible for that." "I beg to differ", I said, "The check bounced because the bank took money out of my account by error, so, yes, the bank is responsible for the check." She responded, "What I meant is that it's not our responsibility."

I asked to speak to a manager at this point because I could see that it was going nowhere. The manager came out and explained that there was nothing that they could do about the repercussions or repayment of the bounced check. I was furious. I now had to pay Rapid Roberts the ten dollars and a $40 Returned Check fee on top of that all because the bank messed up my account and all they could tell me was that it wasn't their responsibility. I expressed my dissatisfaction with the teller, the manager, and the bank right there in the lobby for everyone to hear. I was asked to leave but not after being told that the police had already been called.

I left, went straight to Rapid Roberts, and paid the fee. I asked if there was anything else that needed to be done and stated that this was my first time having to deal with this kind of thing. The clerk said that that was it, gave me a receipt, and thanked me for coming in to pay it so quickly.

Almost a year went by when I was arrested for the bounced check. I was having fun with some friends at Braden's Slab, a popular hangout location in Bruner, MO. We all left and my friend Shawn slid off the thin windy gravel road leading back to the highway. Where the car slid off was a very deep ditch about 5 feet deep. The car was almost vertical on its side. I stopped along with another driver in a Chevy S-10 Blazer. Others left because they figured that with the Blazer Shawn's car would be back on the road in no time. The driver of the Blazer was inexperienced and when attempting to pull Shawn's small car out, he also slid down into the ditch. Between all the passengers of all three vehicles we had a total of about 9 or 10 people now with my small car as the sole source of transportation. We tried for close to an hour to get both vehicles out with no luck. That's when Christian County Sheriffs arrived on the scene. They searched all the vehicles intent on arresting all of us for something, but in the end only Shawn and I went to jail; Shawn for the bottle of vodka they found in his car, I for the warrant they found when running my license. I explained what happened with the whole check thing and they assured me that we could figure all that out at the jail when we got there.

We got to the jail and they told me that the warrant was valid whether I had paid Rapid Roberts or not. They said that someone could get the receipt for me, but that it wouldn't do anything anyway. I'd have to bring it to court. They explained that the only way out was to pay $100 bail. I called my friend whom I bailed out several times. He organized a collection and sent someone to get me out. After some initial confusion as to what county I was in, the money man was sent out again only to find out that the bail amount was actually $107. The money man was short the $7 and had no way to get it at 3 o'clock in the morning. So, into orange I went. Since the jail was ancient and over-full I got to spend the night on a thin mat on the floor of a cell. Shawn was already asleep in the top bunk and some guy was asleep on the bottom. My mom bailed me out the next morning which I paid her back immediately.

About a month later I went to court over the issue. I quickly got found not guilty after producing the receipt and was directed to receive my refund from my bail minus $70 in court costs. I asked the judge why I should have to pay the court costs if I was not guilty. He said that everyone pays the court costs and that I should've taken the receipt from Rapid Robert's to the Sheriff's station in the first place to let them know that I had paid them. I explained that I didn't and couldn't have known that I was supposed to do that. He then threatened me with finding me in contempt if I didn't immediately leave his court room without saying another word. All I could do was glare at him and leave.

In the end, Ozark Bank's actions cost me $110, a night in jail, and a whole lot of grief. I had done nothing wrong and even attempted to immediately fix what had happened to me and was only thanked with punishment.

All of this to say that many banks are not what they were originally designed to be. The whole idea behind placing your money in a bank is so that your finances are protected. They can be safe, hence the name for the large lock box they supposedly place your money in. When banks fail to protect you, the customer, financially they fail to be a bank.

Bank of America recently cost me a similar price a few weeks ago that Ozark Bank inflicted me with 12 years ago. The only difference is that Ozark Bank had admittedly made an error that they attempted to fix if only partially. Bank of America, on the other hand, has a policy in place to seize their customer's money if given the opportunity even when that opportunity is presented by an action that is not the cause of the customer. In other words, someone other than myself can do something that causes my bank to take my money. I won't go into the exhaustive detail as I did with the Ozark Bank story, but I want to point out how opposite that is of what we all understand a bank's nature to be. A bank should protect their customer's money against all who threaten to steal it. Bank of America does not do this and they failed on several counts to provide any logical reasons for their actions while failing to recognize the logic from me that demanded that they return what was not theirs to take.

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