January 2004 Archives

I have been testing Movable Type software for blogging, basically repeating what I post here. As of right now, I am only updating the Movable Type blog on a temporary basis (or maybe permanent basis??). Click here for the current version of this particular blog. Thanks.

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I got this from Andrew

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I got this from Andrew Sullivan's blog. It is very poignant without being nasty.
It is the winner of MoveOn.org advertisement competition.

I remember the WR Grace Company putting together a series of ads during the Reagan administration making a very similar point. Grace's ads were much darker. Set in the near future, they showed the younger generations in near destitution along the lines of 'Mad-Max' or '1984' putting on trial the elder generation for their irresponsible and greedy spending spree that plunged the economy and nation into ruin. The ads never ran because the television powers that were considered them too extreme. It seemed their premise would not come to pass when Clinton came into office and the deficits where eliminated. This occurred under a Democratic administration, no less. So, here we are under Bush, a Republican, and deficit spending is back in a rampage.

Yes, the situations between Reagan tenure and Bush's are different, but the fact is that we have returned to fiscally immoral deficit spending without restraint, thus the new round of commercials. It seems for me, considering myself a 'progressive-conservative,' Bush has turned into a Republican I cannot support.

(Watch all the winning entries.)

Here is a great article written in Slate: Where Anglicans Fear To Tread

My experiences in a theologically liberal setting with a strong and ancient tradition, I can't help but be changed - a progression both gradual and somewhat imperceptible. It is one thing to disagree with another or others concerning issues, ideas, or theories of all types, but another thing entirely to deny Christ in the other or others when I might hold a differing opinion.

We are seeking God. God is beyond our understanding, yet God has finagled a way so that we can know Him. We can never fully understand, yet we can know!

By the word of their testimony - they seek God; seek to understand God and the world. Their actions (for the most part, recognizing we humans are always fallible and always prone to mistakes) are generally consistent with their words. I cannot deny Christ in them; I cannot deny the Holy Spirit working within them to conform their lives to the image of Christ - freedom, peace, joy, and prosperity of the soul. I may think they are dead wrong and at this point in their understanding dangerous to the cause of Christ, but I cannot deny Christ in them! I cannot, even though they deny Christ in me.

I can ask where their passions lie! "Linking Isaiah's allegory with our Lord's vine and branches metaphor in tonight's gospel, the warning is clear: you and I put ourselves in great danger when we abide in any other vine - whether person, issue, tradition, or theological conviction - as the source of our identity and purpose. There is only one vine in which to abide - our Lord." (The Rev'd. Fred Anderson, pastor of the Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church, preacher for the William Reed Huntington Memorial Eucharist, September 2003) He spoke of many wild grapes that have been produced by the Church throughout history. Where does my passion lie? Within what vine do I abide? Within which do you? "Our disunity has produced more than simply bad wine." Within the Episcopal Church and within Anglicanism, much bad wine is being produced, many wild grapes are growing. We are abiding in vines of theology, pride, power, "purity," polity, piety, Biblicism, idolatry, etc. We are denying Christ in others from whom we hear their words of testimony and see the fruit of their lives and their claim of life in Christ. Anderson refers to his first professor of Ecumenics, as he touches on the issues that continue to divide us, especially at this time concern human sexuality, "President McCord regularly warned students, 'If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always chose heresy. For as a heretic you are only guilty of a wrong opinion. As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the Body of Christ. Choose heresy every time!'"

Here is a profound change in me! I would have always chosen against heresy (maybe not for schism per-say, but for expulsion) and would have denied Christ in others who did not hold a generally Evangelical theology. Now, I cannot deny Christ to others or in others with whom I disagree (who disagree with a certain theological vain), even though I may consider them heretics. I have moved from choosing a particular take on "purity of doctrine" ending is schism (expulsion), to choosing heresy. I see in part and I know in part, so who am I to judge others to the point of denying Christ in them when their words and deeds show a seeking after the things of Christ, a longing and desire for the Way of Christ. I may think they are dead wrong, and I may think their current ways of thinking or doing are dangerous to the cause of Christ, but it is not my prerogative to decide whether they do or do not have Christ!

My experiences in a theologically liberal setting with a strong and ancient tradition, I can't help but be changed - a progression both gradual and somewhat imperceptible. It is one thing to disagree with another or others concerning issues, ideas, or theories of all types, but another thing entirely to deny Christ in the other or others when I might hold a differing opinion.

We are seeking God. God is beyond our understanding, yet God has finagled a way so that we can know Him. We can never fully understand, yet we can know!

By the word of their testimony - they seek God; seek to understand God and the world. Their actions (for the most part, recognizing we humans are always fallible and always prone to mistakes) are generally consistent with their words. I cannot deny Christ in them; I cannot deny the Holy Spirit working within them to conform their lives to the image of Christ - freedom, peace, joy, and prosperity of the soul. I may think they are dead wrong and at this point in their understanding dangerous to the cause of Christ, but I cannot deny Christ in them! I cannot, even though they deny Christ in me.

I can ask where their passions lie! "Linking Isaiah's allegory with our Lord's vine and branches metaphor in tonight's gospel, the warning is clear: you and I put ourselves in great danger when we abide in any other vine - whether person, issue, tradition, or theological conviction - as the source of our identity and purpose. There is only one vine in which to abide - our Lord." (The Rev'd. Fred Anderson, pastor of the Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church, preacher for the William Reed Huntington Memorial Eucharist, September 2003) He spoke of many wild grapes that have been produced by the Church throughout history. Where does my passion lie? Within what vine do I abide? Within which do you? "Our disunity has produced more than simply bad wine." Within the Episcopal Church and within Anglicanism, much bad wine is being produced, many wild grapes are growing. We are abiding in vines of theology, pride, power, "purity," polity, piety, Biblicism, idolatry, etc. We are denying Christ in others from whom we hear their words of testimony and see the fruit of their lives and their claim of life in Christ. Anderson refers to his first professor of Ecumenics, as he touches on the issues that continue to divide us, especially at this time concern human sexuality, "President McCord regularly warned students, 'If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always chose heresy. For as a heretic you are only guilty of a wrong opinion. As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the Body of Christ. Choose heresy every time!'"

Here is a profound change in me! I would have always chosen against heresy (maybe not for schism per-say, but for expulsion) and would have denied Christ in others who did not hold a generally Evangelical theology. Now, I cannot deny Christ to others or in others with whom I disagree (who disagree with a certain theological vain), even though I may consider them heretics. I have moved from choosing a particular take on "purity of doctrine" ending is schism (expulsion), to choosing heresy. I see in part and I know in part, so who am I to judge others to the point of denying Christ in them when their words and deeds show a seeking after the things of Christ, a longing and desire for the Way of Christ. I may think they are dead wrong, and I may think their current ways of thinking or doing are dangerous to the cause of Christ, but it is not my prerogative to decide whether they do or do not have Christ!

Here is a good word:

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Here is a good word:

malversation: n Dishonest or unethical conduct by somebody in a professional position or public office, often involving bribery, extortion, or embezzlement (formal).

Could this also be applied to Christians who misrepresent the facts - distortion - to support their own ends?

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I find the following article from CitizenLink concerning a challenge from media critic Brent Bozell to Tom Brokau (NBC News anchor) to put his money where his mouth is concerning proof of media liberal bias interesting, not because of the charge or the network's denial of such bias, but because of the author's (Stuart Shepard) implication that bias is only one way - liberal. All one has to do is read the CitizenLink updates, or much of anything coming from the "pro-family"/Religious Right camp, to know that conservatives are as biased in their reporting as liberals. There are media outlets, both liberal and conservative, that do a better job in their attempts to be unbiased than others do, but it is not about virtuous conservatives battling against all the evil liberals.

The sad thing, as I see it, is that those who claim to represent Christ are as enmeshed in the manipulation of facts and the misrepresentation of issues and people's words and beliefs than is secular media. If we are to be a better example, then we must report truthfully - "just the facts, ma誕m." We must recognize and admit our own biases and do the best we can to safeguard that we do not fall into the same trap. The ends do not justify the means!

Here is the article:

"Media Critic Throws Down Million-Dollar Gauntlet
by Stuart Shepard, correspondent

SUMMARY: Media watchdog Brent Bozell is betting a million dollars the media really are biased.

Conservative media watchdog L. Brent Bozell III does more than just take issue with Tom Brokaw's recent denial of media bias. He has delivered a substantial challenge to the NBC News anchor.

Brokaw said in a recent interview in the Columbia Journalism Review that he sees no liberal bias in the media, criticizing Bozell in the process.

"Brokaw said what he gets tired of is Brent Bozell trying to make these 'fine legal points everywhere, every day,' " said Tim Graham, director of media analysis for Bozell's Media Research Center (MRC).

So Graham said his boss decided to offer Brokaw a million-dollar challenge: Assemble an objective panel to judge what MRC has documented on NBC.

In other words, Graham said: "Put your money where your mouth is."

One MRC example of NBC's bias: The network connected the Beltway sniper to President Bush, through the head of the company that made the sniper's gun.

Specifically, Brokaw stated, though it had absolutely no bearing on the shootings: "Richard Dyke was finance chairman for the state of Maine for George W. Bush's campaign."

Graham, meanwhile, said if the independent panel finds no bias, Bozell will send $1 million dollars to Brokaw's favorite charity. But if there is bias, Brokaw would have to give a million to the nonprofit Media Research Center.

CitizenLink Editor Gary Schneeberger, who spent 14 years working for daily newspapers, confessed that his liberal ideals before coming to Christ in 1997 led him to slant his share of stories. And it's also given him insight into how everyday Americans can combat bias in their local media without having to risk a million dollars.

"The way to do it isn't to write (editors and news directors) letters and call them up and scream at them that they're liberal," Schneeberger said.

Instead, he explained, pro-family conservatives must show newspapers and broadcasters specific examples of their bias and argue for fairness.

"What we want," he said, "is the opportunity for our best arguments, and our best spokespeople, to be out there making a case."

NBC did not answer requests for an interview on this topic. MRC, meanwhile, said it has not heard back from Brokaw, either."

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I know I need to

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I know I need to improve my writing skills - grammar, spelling, thought progression, and logic, etc. - so I'll write as I attempt to do so. As I encounter this stuff more and more, my need to articulately and competently deal with the issue grows, especially as I engage people like the conservative pastor on my trip back to New York. I am finding that it isn't just me figuring things out for myself any longer, but I have to be concerned with the issues as they affect other people. Just some comments concerning another piece written in the latest Citizen Link form Focus on the Family.

Statistics Show Declining Interest in Civil Unions
by Stuart Shepard, correspondent

Interest in Vermont same-sex civil unions is on the decline, and those numbers provide some insight into what the homosexual lobby's attack on marriage is really all about.

The number of civil unions in Vermont has dropped steadily since they were first offered in 2001. In fact, of the gay couples in that state that identified themselves to the 2000 Census -- a number most would agree is an undercount -- fewer than half applied for a civil union.

How does the decline provide insight the Religious Right’s perceived gay attack on marriage? What is the correlation? They say that a drop in applications for civil-unions equals a secret gay plan to destroy marriage. How do they draw this conclusion, except to grasp at anything – anything – in an attempt to prove their unfounded theory.

Another valid interpretation can be that the drop of applications after the initial offerings simply reflects the well documented and well reported fact that many gays do not find it necessary to receive a piece of paper from the government to validate their mutual commitment to one another. Those who wanted a state sanction and the rights and responsibilities provided, did so and continue to do so. The attitude to forgo state sanction is reflected in secular society in general – there are more and more straight people opting out of “marriage” as a legally binding contract issued by the state and as a sanctioned blessing from the Church.

"The homosexual lifestyle is about sexual adventure," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "I'm beginning to see that they're not interested in obtaining marriage for the purpose of monogamy and long-term commitment.

The relative lack of interest, he added, reveals the underlying goal is not attaining marriage, but rather destroying the traditional marriage culture.

It is true that many straight people are losing interest in state sanction and Church blessing to solemnize their mutual relationships. It is also true that many homosexuals do not believe state sanction or Church blessing is necessary to solemnize their relationships. That does not prove at all that the underlying goal of either group is the destruction of marriage, however. To draw that kind of conclusion is manipulative and disingenuous – not the kind of thing a Christian organization should do. Frankly, it is a lie.

It is also true that many men are sexually adventurous, and that includes many gay men. After working with college students 20 years, I can tell you that straight guys are as interested in and seek out sex on par with any gay guy, although straight men may simply not have the same opportunities. I want to stress, however, that there is a big difference between the attitudes of secular men and Christian men, students or otherwise, gay or straight. Being gay to some is about being as sexually adventurous and irresponsible as possible, but I can levy the same charge towards many straight men how view being a man in the same way. Again, that does not mean that either groups seek the destruction of marriage – it is more a live-and-let-live attitude.

"Clearly, this is going to be a defining moment for America and for all of Western civilization," Perkins said. "Will we defend the historical, traditional and biblical view of marriage and family, or will it pass into the shadows of history?"

I believe the Religious Right’s battle against gay marriage is not a battle for the ‘institution of marriage,’ which is in terrible trouble within the Evangelical and Fundamentalist communities. It is a battle to use many gay people’s desire for marriage as a scapegoat – they cannot confront the primary threat to heterosexual marriage because too many Evangelicals/Fundamentalists participate in the actual problems themselves, plain and simple. This is a convenient smokescreen to mask their drive to stamp out homosexuality. They create fear and hysteria for their own purposes. I have no problem with Christians defending a traditional image of marriage, but the logical conclusion of their opposition does not mean that gay people must be excluded from the same responsibilities and privileges that come with state-sanctioned heterosexual marriage. Of course, I believe it can be shown that their underlying goal is control – of politics, media, Christianity, and culture. If fits perfectly with Dominion Theology/Christian Reconstructionism (read about this perspective), to varying degrees.

The people of Focus on

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The people of Focus on the Family have shown themselves so willing to distort information to meet their own purposes that I cannot take anything they say as being truthful – have to take everything with a grain of salt. It is shameful for an organization that claims to represent Christ to do such things. They claim for themselves the idea that the end result justifies all means of accomplishing their goals - the end justifies the means. That is not of Christ, who claims that the process of getting to the goal is more important than accomplishing the goal.

Our goal as Christians should not simply be heaven by and by when we die. Our goal is to live life here and now in each moment as God would have us live according to the principles of Jesus Christ. If we do that, then the end will take care of itself. When we stand before God, he is not going say 'go on because you are standing before me,' he will say 'go onÂ’ according to his judgment as to whether we accepted the gift of grace through Jesus Christ.

When we put the end result ahead of the process (the end justifies the means), we begin doing exactly what Focus on the Family (and many other Religious Rights groups) are doing - distorting truth and information in order to persuade (really deceive) citizens into supporting their position, which in this case is a theocratic system in accordance to their definitions. The end result, actually, will be the defamation of Christ and a public that will no longer give them any type of consideration because of their lies and distortions.

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In Focus on the Family's latest CitizenUpdate e-mail newsletter, there has been a slight but I think significant shift in their verbiage dealing with gay-marriage. I'm sure the shift in wording is only for Massachusetts because polls have show that a slight majority is in favor of at least civil-unions, with all the rights and responsibilities of straight-marriage, or actual gay-marriage. If a majority of people support the Supreme Judicial Courts ruling, they have to change the way the present their message.

"Coalition Launched to Defend Marriage in Massachusetts

Organizations from across Massachusetts and the nation,
including Focus on the Family, have joined forces to
advocate for the unique value of one-man, one-woman
marriage
in the Commonwealth." (emphasis mine)

They are now emphasizing the "unique value" of straight-marriage, rather than their far more harsh, exclusive, and demeaning demand that we all accept the depravity and socially-destructive idea of gay-marriage.

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I am so excited about the success of the latest NASA Mars rover! Simply incredible photos of the planet, and more to come.

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This from the House of

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This from the House of Bishops/House of Deputies listserv. It is a portion of a sermon concerning the rise of Fundamentalism in the early part of the 20th century.

The following I find an apt, if short, commentary on the Defense of Marriage Age, and more particular the proposed Constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage:

"Paul Bradshaw, a scholar of liturgy and the history of the early church, has published ten principles for interpreting early Christian liturgical evidence. One of these seems particularly germane to the present-day efforts to prohibit gay marriage. It says: 'Legislation is better evidence for what it proposes to prohibit than for what it seeks to promote.'* The Celtic tradition in Britain serves as a case in point. If the so-called Synod of Whitby (663 AD) created a standardized form of Christianity throughout Britain, why did other gatherings, meetings, and synods need to repeat over and over again this same demand for standardization? Answer: the legislation requiring uniformity actually serves as evidence that things were not, in fact, uniform! You don't have to make a law against something that is not actually happening, right? Given this principle, what do you think future historians will think of the Defense of Marriage Act and similar legislation?"**

I suspect historians will conclude that gay-marriages were already being conducted, and the new laws or amendments were to stop and condemn them, not so much as the proponents of the laws claimed them to be about the positive elevation of the institution of heterosexual marriage and family. However, in the same way subsequent meetings, synods, and gatherings had to continually demand uniformity in British Christianity, because there continued not to be, those opposed to gay-marriage will continually have to demand by force the prohibition of gay-marriages, because they will continue to occur! Slaves found ways to marry, even when their masters and society denied them the legal recognition - marriage was a covenant based on mutual adult intent acknowledged and supported by their peers, not on pieces of paper. It wasn't until much later that their marriages were recognized by law and society with all the legal rights and responsibilities provided for the rest of the citizenry.

Of course, since the DMA has already passed nationally and in most states, and with the possibility that an amendment might be successfully added to the Constitution, historians will decide the rightness or wrongness of the laws and amendments depending on who gets to write the history, and when.

Much of what I hear and read from the politicized Religious Right prohibitionists claim to positively uplift the institution of heterosexual marriage, as we understand it in the late 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, for the sake of families and society, but if we apply the standard suggested by Bradshaw and emphasized by Bates, then it seems to be more about their negative demand to rid the nation of gay-marriages.

* Paul Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of Liturgy (New York: Oxford, 1992), 68.
**Father Barrie Bates, A Rhetorical Editorial, Life at Ascension Parish Newsletter, vol 35, no 1 (New York: Church of the Ascension, 2004), 2.

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"Prayer is the meeting of eternity and time..." from Easter, by Michael Arditti. I have heard a number of things like this. From this past semester's liturgy class: the idea that the liturgy is meant to bring us out of our time and into God's time, from kronos into kairos. In much the same way that a church - full of stained glass, statuary, candles, beautiful architecture, icons, etc. - brings us out of our human 'space' and into God's 'space.' This idea of the church environment, its 'space,' is made very real as one enters St. Thomas Episcopal Church on 5th Ave. in New York City. Coming from the hustle and bustle, the noise, the frenzied and frantic crowds of 5th Ave., and entering into St. Thomas, where it is quite, serene, peaceful, and very beautiful is almost like entering a different world. The only place to find quite in New York City is within a church. Time stops in those places, if for only a moment, and I am able to hear myself think, I am able to meditation and contemplate, and I listen attentively for the still small voice of God.

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I had an interesting conversation with a man seated next to me on one leg of my flight back to New York, yesterday. He noticed the book I'm reading (Easter) on my lap while buckling in and asked me about it. He went to Asbury Seminary and is now pastoring a "Missionary Church." I've never heard of that denomination, although he said it is Wesleyan. Anyway, he asked me what I thought about the recent happenings within the Episcopal Church, which got us off onto a whole variety of topics, most specifically homosexuality and the Church's response to the whole issue. He is opposed to homosexuality and the Church's acceptance and inclusion of gays in relationships.

He made a number of statements that were typical (typically incorrect!), and a couple that I thought were interesting (although not unexpected). The statements confirmed that really there is no compromise between those who believe in inclusion and those who do not - the only thing that will change peoples' minds is confronting, face-to-face, people who do not fit into their neat categorizations or stereotypes.

At one point, he said that we Christians get ourselves in trouble when we begin to use philosophy to explain our beliefs - he is apposed to Christians using philosophy. Of course, theology is simply the philosophy of God. I understand, I think, that he believes that relying too much on philosophical arguments will lead to relativism or disbelief.

He talked about the plain reading of scripture. I agree with the idea, in theory, but the problem is that the plain reading can only really happen in the original languages when they were written. When we get into the art and science of translating ancient languages into modern languages, we are engaged in interpretation. I can read an English Bible, but what I am reading is an interpretation, not the "plain" script of the original language. Moreover, of course, if depends on which English translation I read. I have read numerous times, which I really have to do some research to confirm, that the actual word "homosexual" did not appear in an English translation of the Bible until the mid-50's. Before that, the world could not be found. The plain reading prior to the 1950's would not have included the word "homosexual," whereas the plain reading in various English translations after the 1950's does. Finding the word "homosexual" in scripture is not the primary rational for the sinfulness of homosexuality, however.

Then, of course, he could not conceive that I have a high-view of scripture because I did not agree with him (and truthfully with the force of interpretative history and tradition of those few verses used to condemn homosexuals) on the meaning of the few verses or pericope that are said to pertain to homosexuals. Because I came to a different interpretive conclusion (not based on my own want but from study), I could not view scripture as authoritative. Because I did not agree with his interpretation, I was deceived or at least refusing to acknowledge the "plain-reading" of scripture. In his comments, he always kept coming back to his acceptance of scripture as authoritative, which I always had to remind him that I held the same belief. He didn't believe me. He would allow for difference of interpretation with other things, such as between Calvinism and Arminianism, or between Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals, but not with the issue of homosexuality. To him, I am a biblical relativist.

He does not believe that conservative and liberal (the terms never fit and always confuse the issue, frankly) can remain in the same Church. Even as I tried to explain the ethos of Anglicanism - that despite the differences, there remains unity and an allowance for difference of opinion - he just didn't get it. In order for the two groups to live in integrity, they had to split apart. Of course, it all depends on where one's focus is directed. If there is a belief that Christ can be seen in others who disagree with us, then unity is possible. If there is an allowance for God to determine who is in and who is out, if there is an allowance for legitimate interpretive differences and a saying of "I don't know for sure," then there can be unity.

While I recognize that pride is an ever present companion, I am amazed at the self-righteous pride that has developed within Evangelicalism. Why do any of us think that at this day-in-age, that we suddenly have it all correct, when throughout the 2,000 plus years of Christians history, there has never been unanimity of belief! We don't have all the answers right now, nor will we ever. We see in part, we understand in part, as looking through a glass dimly. Only when we are face-to-face with Jesus will we know. Why, then, do Evangelicals find it increasingly necessary to demand that they now know everything pertaining to God's truth when that has never been the case throughout history?

I just don't know where to go with all this stuff right now. There is so much more I need to know and learn before I can make any type of honest and legitimate argument.

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