August 2006 Archives

Evangelism is not...

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In my unimpressive opinion, evangelism is not a matter of convincing anyone of anything.

It is not a matter of instilling the "fear of God" in people or the fear of going into eternity in a "lake of fire." It is not a matter of promising people wealth and prosperity and that all their problems will be solved. It is not a matter of showing people how accepting, diverse, or loving we are. It is not attempting to convince people of anything.

It is a matter of one's life being so ordered and formed by the way one lives and understands life within God, that others cannot help but notice and be attracted to that something that emanates from one's life. The locus is the person's life - his/her lived religion - not attempts to prove the faith, prove how successful or wonderful Christians are, or legislate anything. This makes the life of a Christian who desires to be engaged in evangelism much more difficult, but far more honest, sincere, and ultimately life-giving.

Viewing evangelism in this way moves us away from a sense of insecurity and the compulsion to indoctrinate or somehow prove how right we are. It understands evangelism as a natural outgrowth of our intimacy with God, God's transforming power, and our willingness to be among those "of the world."

It is happening again

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THis is my second year in a row that I am not involved in an opening of school. For twenty years, I was a part of the beginning of a new academic year. I miss it!

Here is Beloit College's Mindset list for the Class of 2010, born around 1988.

Beloit College's Mindset List for the Class of 2010:

1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
2. They have known only two presidents.
3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the United States.
5. They have grown up getting lost in "big boxes."
6. There has always been only one Germany.
7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
8. They are wireless, yet always connected.
9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.
10. Thanks to pervasive headphones in the back seat, parents have always been able to speak freely in the front.

11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
13. Faux fur has always been a necessary element of style.
14. The Moral Majority has never needed an organization.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
16. DNA fingerprinting has always been admissible evidence in court.
17. They grew up pushing their own miniature shopping carts in the supermarket.
18. They grew up with and have outgrown faxing as a means of communication.
19. "Google" has always been a verb.
20. Text messaging is their e-mail.


21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.
22. Mr. Rogers, not Walter Cronkite, has always been the most trusted man in America.
23. Bar codes have always been on everything, from library cards and snail mail to retail items.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Super Bowl-winning coach.
25. "Phantom of the Opera" has always been on Broadway.
26. Boogers candy has always been a favorite for grossing out parents.
27. There has never been a skyhook in the NBA.
28. Carbon copies are oddities found in their grandparents' attics.
29. Computerized player pianos have always been tinkling in the lobby.
30. Nondenominational mega-churches have always been the fastest growing religious organizations in the United States.

31. They grew up in minivans.
32. Reality shows have always been on television.
33. They have no idea why we needed to ask "...can we all get along?"
34. They have always known that "In the criminal justice system the people have been represented by two separate yet equally important groups."
35. Young women's fashions have never been concerned with where the waist is.
36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.
37. Brides have always worn white for a first, second or third wedding.
38. Being techno-savvy has always been inversely proportional to age.
39. "So" as in "Sooooo New York," has always been a drawn-out adjective modifying a proper noun, which in turn modifies something else.
40. Affluent troubled teens in Southern California have always been the subjects of television series.


41. They have always been able to watch wars and revolutions live on television.
42. Ken Burns has always been producing very long documentaries on PBS.
43. They are not aware that "flock of seagulls hair" has nothing to do with birds flying into it.
44. Retin-A has always made America look less wrinkled.
45. Green tea has always been marketed for health purposes.
46. Public school officials have always had the right to censor school newspapers.
47. Small white holiday lights have always been in style.
48. Most of them never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
49. They have always been searching for "Waldo."


50. The really rich have regularly expressed exuberance with outlandish birthday parties.
51. Michael Moore has always been showing up uninvited.
52. They never played the game of state license plates in the car.
53. They have always preferred going out in groups as opposed to dating.
54. There have always been live organ donors.
55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.
56. They have never put their money in a "Savings & Loan."
57. Sara Lee has always made underwear.
58. Bad behavior has always been getting captured on amateur videos.
59. Disneyland has always been in Europe and Asia.


60. They never saw Bernard Shaw on CNN.
61. Beach volleyball has always been a recognized sport.
62. Acura, Lexus and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.
63. Television stations have never concluded the broadcast day with the national anthem.
64. LoJack transmitters have always been finding lost cars.
65. Diane Sawyer has always been live in "Prime Time."
66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.
67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.
68. "Outing" has always been a threat.
69. "Oh, The Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss has always been the perfect graduation gift.
70. They have always "dissed" what they don't like.
71. The United States has always been studying global warming to confirm its existence.
72. Richard M. Daley has always been the mayor of Chicago.
73. They grew up with virtual pets to feed, water and play games with, lest they die.
74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

A friend of mine sent this joke to me the other day. It may be old, but it's new to me and I couldn't stop laughing.

Donald Rumsfeld is briefing George Bush in the Oval Office. "Oh, and finally, sir, three Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq today."


Bush goes pale, his jaw hanging open in stunned disbelief. He buries his face in his hands, muttering "My God...My God."


"Mr. President," says Cheney, "we lose soldiers all the time, and it's terrible. But I've never seen you so upset. What's the matter?"


Bush looks up and says..."How many is a Brazilian?"

There are times when the true feelings, inclinations, beliefs of elected officials are blatantly made known. There are many people within the politicized Religious Right who are determined to do everything in their power to bring about (in their way of seeing things) or impose (in the minds of many other Americans) a form of theocracy. Most will never admit this in public because they know that it will not fly with a very large percentage of American voters, conservative or liberal.

A recent interview of Katherine Harris, a representative from Florida, is a good recent example. From the Washington Post:

Rep. Harris Condemns Separation of Church, State

By Jim Stratton
Orlando Sentinel
Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A09

ORLANDO, Aug. 25 -- Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) said this week that God did not intend for the United States to be a "nation of secular laws" and that the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics.

"If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin," Harris told interviewers from the Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples of that sin.

Harris, a candidate in the Sept. 5 Republican primary for U.S. Senate, said her religious beliefs "animate" everything she does, including her votes in Congress.

Witness editors interviewed candidates for office, asking them to describe their faith and their positions on certain issues.

Harris has always professed a deep Christian faith. But she has rarely expressed such a fervent evangelical perspective publicly.

Harris told the journalists "we have to have the faithful in government" because that is God's will. Separating religion and politics is "so wrong because God is the one who chooses our rulers," she said.

"And if we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women," then "we're going to have a nation of secular laws. That's not what our Founding Fathers intended, and that certainly isn't what God intended."

The reactions were swift:

Political and religious officials responded to her published remarks with outrage and dismay.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said she was "disgusted" by the comments "and deeply disappointed in Representative Harris personally."

Harris, Wasserman Schultz said, "clearly shows that she does not deserve to be a representative."

Ruby Brooks, a veteran Tampa Bay Republican activist, said Harris's remarks "were offensive to me as a Christian and a Republican."

"This notion that you've been chosen or anointed, it's offensive," Brooks said. "We hurt our cause with that more than we help it."

What will happen now? If enough Florida voters wish to have this kind of representative, then they will - or if enough voters who do not simply stay home on Election Day. We get what we deserve.

What sort of time is it?

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I'm having a frustrating time discerning our cultural indicators and what they suggest regarding the direction of our national life at home and how this commonly accepted life is effecting the world. I don't know whether the time in which we are living is another cyclical period of human history or whether we may be living within a different sort of time - a time that marks a shift in human history or at least within our national life.

I watched the second half of Spike Lee's HBO documentary (WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS) on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and how New Orleans and New Orleanians are dealing with it all. There was a comment made by, I believe, an historian from a prominent university who said that we as a nation can have available all the money we need to do what we really think is important. Of course, there is often a difference between what our government wants and does and what the people think should be done. I wonder whether the divide between the government and the governed is growing at an ever faster pace these days?

We spend, what?, almost one billion dollars a day on the war in Iraq that has ultimately made Islamic radicals and the resulting terrorists more resolved in their campaign against the U.S. and the West in general and more numerous in membership. We can find the money to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on political campaigns. Yet, we cannot find the money to rebuild New Orleans in a timely manner; we cannot find the money to build new levies that are world class (as the Dutch do); we cannot find the money to enable poor New Orleanians to return to their refurbished homes; we cannot find the money to clean up non-tourist areas; we cannot find within ourselves the will to hold government and private interests accountable for the common good rather than their own exclusive interests, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Spike Lee included a video-clip of the senior Bushes at the Houston Astrodome not long after Katrina and Barbara, Mother-of-the-Nation, was saying how a lot of these people were destitute to begin with that this has actually made their lives better - as she surveyed all the people sleeping on cots with only the cloths in such a nice venue.

I have this underlying suspicion that those in positions of power are clueless about how average people live in this country and the world over. There is a disconnect that they do not recognize - a disconnect between what is assumed to be and what really is. Let them eat cake! I also have this underlying suspicion that those nefarious people in government whose only concern is the enrichment of their own is growing unrestrained and their attitude is increasingly unapologetic in their self-justification. The poor disserve to be poor because they are lazy and inferior. (Of course, this attitude is only encouraged by the very American but pseudo-Christian "Prosperity Movement" - God blesses those who are doing right by Him with material wealth and prosperity, and we can deduce what that then means concerning the poor.)

What does this say about our nation - about our government and the forces that shape our culture and self-understanding? What does this say about both the generosity of our people who helped those fleeing the hurricane and the same people who refuse to hold their government accountable? Perhaps, and this is sad, a majority of the populous is so disengaging from the political process, our history, current-events, and governmental processes, that a small group of self-interested people can run free as they use the government and the peoples' money to enrich themselves. Are we more interested in being entertained than being competent and responsible citizens? A democracy cannot be sustained without an informed populace that is engaged in their governance.

One life-long New Orleanian woman said something like, "We need a government that really cares about the people!" We were warned many years ago that if the American people discover that they could raid the coffers of government for their own enrichment that the republic could not stand. Government officials have imbibed from the teat of the people's money for a long time, but now it is becoming commonplace and unchallenged by the very people who are supposed to hold government officials accountable. The worse part is that the American people are now starting to become drunk on the same possibility of personal enrichment.

The bad that happens in government will continue unless we, the people, hold our elected officials accountable - unless we elect competent people in the first place, liberal or conservative. We need to hold our representatives accountable concerning how our money is spent and on whom it is spent. Our government can fund a misplaced war that at present seems only to be encouraging and strengthening our foes, or we can demand that it spends our money on assisting those that have been ravaged by forces not of their control. The issues are complex, I know, but something just doesn’t seem to right – and not right in a different sense than under previous administrations or previous times in our history. Is this true, or just my impression?

We have had periods of tremendous corruption and misplaced policies in our nation's past. Is this just another of those kinds of times, or are we entering into a different sort of time when the trajectory of our nation moves in a different direction? It seems the direction we are moving is not good. That which is good is being called bad, and that which is bad is being called good.

Something like that, anyway.

On the train...

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This morning: listening to Bird York and Aimee Mann over and over again on the train into Manhattan.

Quote from Stephen Colbert

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Here is a quote from Stephen Colbert:


"I love my church, and I'm a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That's totally different from the Word, the blood, the body, and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth."

- Stephen Colbert, of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Source: TimeOut New York via SoJo e-mail updates

For those who may not know, Stephen Colbert is a talk-news satirist and "anchor" of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." This show, and Colbert, along with the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, are both quite influential with younger people. I love both shows!

What are we doing?

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Not even a mile after I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge there is a Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) Meeting House. It is an old meetinghouse sitting in the midst of modern and tall buildings - near skyscrapers.

As I passed by the meetinghouse, I saw hanging on their chain link fence a large plain white banner that reads, in black letters, "Honor God. Don't torture."

What in the world have we come to in this country? This isn't a commentary on the present administration, but a commentary on the state of the Christian religion in this country. Something is desperately wrong when those in this country who profess to be Christians need to be reminded that it is not honoring to God be allow, consent to, or carry out torture of other human beings!

Where to belong

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There are all kinds of organizations that are popping up, adding to those already established, and taking sides concerning the troubles in our Church. I just learned of a new one from the "liberal" perspective that is outraged by what happened at General Convention - a capitulation to those forces opposed to "the full inclusion of all people." This group adds to those who are outraged at what happened at General Convention – a capitulation to those who will not uphold the Gospel, as they understand it. This one adds to those who are thrilled with what happened at General Convention – do they know what really happened at General Convention?

You know, I just don't want to be involved in any of these organizations or in any of this mess. They distill complex issues into very narrow and dogmatic positions that I just cannot agree with – “liberal” or “conservative.”

What am I to do? Where do I belong? Certainly, I am to be faithful and continuing on with the work God has given me to do. But, there comes a point where dealing with all these interests groups within the Church and with Church leadership that refuses to lead gets the best of me. Where is the honesty, the self-giving, the humility, and the integrity that God calls us to? Where are the signs of wisdom and insight and righteousness that Solomon calls us to?

I don't know.

Surreal

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I was walking out of the subway this morning, just off the train and up the first set of steps, and everything went just a bit blurry - kind of otherworldly - and I thought this whole situation just seems so surreal. Is this really my life?

I'm up by 5:30 am (earlier, sometimes, because I just wake up). Listen to NPR while I get ready for work. Try to do some sit-ups, push-ups, and stretching - I have sciatica. Take a shower after the water warms up. Shave, and all that stuff. Then, after ironing a shirt or some such thing, if need be, I try to sit for a bit of quite-time, devotional time, prayer time, Bible-reading time, some time where I can actually encounter God. "Try" is the word. Too many times I become distracted by some thing or another and I end up not doing any sit-ups (which can also be attributed to laziness) or having a devotional time.

Leave to catch the subway by 7:00 am. Go down into a very steamy and hot tunnel and stand and stand and wait and sometimes read. I inevitably just missed the train I wanted. It happens all the time. I'm fated. So, if I'm fortunate, I can sit down, otherwise I will stand for around 20-30 minutes riding through tunnels under Brooklyn, the East River, and Manhattan. I arrive at my destination - 42nd Street. Walk up the first set of stairs, through the tunnel, and through the turnstiles.

There, on my left, is the newsstand, the little florist shop, and lots of people milling around and going somewhere. The proprietors are not native to this country. I talked with a young cab-driver last Saturday. He was born in Bangladesh and came to this country when he was eight. He has only been driving a cab for a couple of months and hates it - hates it! His dream was to open a candy store. Good for him. He said that in this country that anyone can make money. He would work 11, 12 hours a day in his candy store - no problem. In this country, no one bothers you and you can make money, he said. The proprietors of the newsstand and the little florist shop work all day in very hot conditions, underground, everyday, and they make a living.

Up another set of stairs and suddenly, open space, Bryant Park, and another non-native man standing at the top for the subway exit passing out free "subway newspapers." He says something, but I have no idea what he says. He is older. I don't sense anger, bitterness, or guile. He is making a living. He is making some money. He is taking care of himself. He works and tries and is honorable in his efforts to support himself and perhaps his family. I think, at this age, this guy should be heading for retirement and enjoying his grandchildren, not standing out in the weather trying to get rid of the pile of newspapers at his feet.

Walk a few blocks and get my orange scone and medium coffee at Au Bon Pain. Sometimes, something else to eat, but always a coffee - always. Cross 37th St. at 5th to the produce cart. The man working the cart is always there - during the coldest days of winter and the hottest days of summer. He is always there (well, almost always - after one particular snow storm last winter he never made it in). I buy my banana for 35 cents. He is not from this country. He works hard, everyday and no matter the weather. He is nice. He generally smiles. He knows some of his repeat customers and the chat or joke a bit.

March to the office. I sit at a computer for hours and pretend to be a data-analyst. I play with numbers for 7 hours or so a day. Numbers. 7 or 8 hours a day. This is my life?

It seems so surreal at times. Don't get me wrong, please, the job I have is with a great bunch of people. Dedicated and hard working. They all make a whole lot more money then the newsstand worker, the florist guy, the produce-cart man. I get paid well and it enables me to work with the people of St. Paul's. To learn the ropes of church stuff.

Yesterday, I was solo for the first time.

Had to change servers

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I ended up having to change hosts for my website. I'm slowly getting things in order, but it's taking time. At some point, I will change the look and feel.

We forget

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I wonder how consistent our national policies are over time, despite the focus of each policy or the party/man in power. Maybe it is the underlying understanding of ourselves as a people, as a nation-state, held strongly by the people in power.

We protected our interests in the 'banana republics' when the large fruit companies where threatened by 'natives' who were no longer willing to accept exploitation and at times virtual enslavement by their American overlords. We can protect our interests, but the interests being protected during that time and by those leaders where not our national interests, but the economic interests of an oligarchy of companies and their owners. The results proved to be Cuba, dictatorial regimes, communist insurgents, and the like and has resulted in an unstable Central and South America where the perception of the United States is palpably hostile. We did not do what we did for the sake of the people. If we had, the whole region may have been far more prosperous and stable. We continue to pay the price for our arrogance, selfishness, and shortsightedness.

Now, we are protecting our interests in the Middle East. In the guise of spreading democracy or fighting terrorism, we are enforcing our policies and interests without consideration of what may be best for the people there, but rather for our own economic interests, our companies, and the wealthy people who run them. We won't succeed there, either. We could, but that would mean truly and honestly considering what may be best for the Saudi's, for the Iraq's, or for the Iranians for that matter. But, we won't. We won't because just like the English did not consider the best interests of the American colonies, but their own, only led to revolution, so too will our policies in the different areas of the world only lead to the present day equivalent to the American revolution against England. Why are so many fighting against the United States? There are a myriad of reasons, but it probably isn’t because they are jealous (although some are), it is because they perceive that we are selfish, arrogant, and only concerned in our own best interests in opposition to their own. For our current leadership, and for many of our citizens, their perception is true.

If we truly want national security - safety for Americans - we must stop and realize that what we like and think best may well not be. I do not believe that all cultures are equal nor do I believe that all forms of government or economic systems are equal. Over the span of history, and despite atrocities, I think Western Civilization is superior. Democracy and free-enterprise has shown to be the best of all flawed systems. But, democracy cannot be imposed - it must be won, and not by an outside force demoliting all contrary options. Corruption free free-enterprise cannot simply be mandated, it must be experienced in a way that shows that the common person can and will benefit.

Our arrogance is our undoing. Our inability to realize the similarities in our policies toward and approach to Central and South American, the 'banana republics,' in times past and the negative results of those approaches/policies with what we are doing in the Middle-East, in the 'oil republics,' will result in the same kinds of outcomes.

We could truly be a positive force for world improvement and freedom, but we are too busy looking after our own best interests - really the best interests of multi-nationals and their managers, along with an American oligarchy. We honestly fail to realize the national aspirations of other peoples, their desire for their own welfare free from interference from outside forces. We fail to realize that what they actually respect about this thing called the United States is the very thing we are forgetting and leaving behind as we move into these nations with our demands and our military.

We forget why we revolted against the English over 200 years ago. We forget our own heritage, and we do so because it is so inconvenient to the present interests of certain people. We do what we do to our own detriment, because an American empire will only lead to an American disaster.

Words

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There are certain words that strike me for some strange reason. I came across one of those words while finishing a short story by Truman Capote. The word? "Akimbo"

A few words that strike me ~

Akimbo:

1. Placed in such a way as to have the hands on the hips and the elbows bowed outward: children standing with arms akimbo.
2. Being in a bent, bowed, or arched position: “There he remained, dead to the world, limbs akimbo, until we left” (Alex Shoumatoff).
[Middle English in kenebowe : in, in; see in1 + kenebowe(kene-, of unknown meaning + bowe, bow, bend; see bow3).]

Vainglory:

1. Boastful, unwarranted pride in one's accomplishments or qualities.
2. Vain, ostentatious display.
[Middle English vein glory, from Old French vaine gloire, from Latin vna glria, empty pride : vna, feminine of vnus, empty; see vain + glria, glory, pride.]

Vouchsafe

To condescend to grant or bestow (a privilege, for example); deign.
[Middle English vouchen sauf, to warrant as safe : vouchen, to warrant; see vouch + sauf, safe; see safe.]

I find it interesting that I have never encountered this word with the connotation of condescension. Perhaps in the vernacular, but if you look at the word's origins, a sense of condescension doesn't seem to be there. Of course, my encounter with the word comes primarily from the Book of Common Prayer and in an ecclesial setting.

I am at the point where I can notice things going on around me once again. I'm about over the not-really-but-almost panicky feeling (mild anxiety) one gets when everything is unfamiliar and takes twice the time to accomplish and you have to rush to catch the train or subway or a parking space where the car doesn't have to be moved for another 5 days!

There is this rather large woman I've seen walking her dog the last four days straight. She always wears black, and although it looks like the same clothing I certainly hope it is not. I said hello to her yesterday morning while I marched to the subway - sweating. She grunted I think – perhaps attempting to say something, then clearing her throat as I marched on. The funny thing is, her dog matches her. He is a very chocolaty colored lab (I think) and very over weight. They both lumber along down the street as he does his business. Now, I've seen men and their dogs and marvel at how they truly do look alike, but this is the first time I've seen such a striking resemblance between a woman and her dog.

Walking home from the subway this evening - a bit cooler than the last few days - I saw a thin-ish, artsy kind-of-guy coming out of his apartment just ahead of me. He had a ponytail and loose tank-top, and he reminded me of my friend John. (I was John's best man and because I am pathetically lazy at keeping-up with friends I want to stay in contact with, I haven't spoken to John in a very long time.) Anyway, this man had a bundle of laundry on his shoulder and his young son in tow. This happens 1,000 times a moment, I'm sure, but I was privileged to see it: as the man walked between parked cars heading for the other side of the street with his son quickly trailing behind, his son reached for his shirt to grab hold of him. He tried a couple times before finely getting a fistful of shirt to hung onto. Halfway across the street, the man reached down and took hold of his son's hand, effortlessly, quickly, instinctively. No words passed between them, just the deep familiarity of son and father. For me, today, it was simply a very touching moment in time - something done so unthinkingly to be so common and yet so touching.

I've been in my current neighborhood, Park Slope in Brooklyn, for a month now. I say 'current' because this is just another in a string of places I’ve had to live and will be living for over a year and a half. Being 'homeless' for over a year has taken its toll, but I can't claim that moniker - while it is true that I have been living out of boxes because I haven't had a place of my own, the reality is that I have stayed in some very nice places. On the Close for two months after graduation, Llewellyn Park in West Orange, NJ for 10 months, to name two, and now in Park Slope.

It's the same with being Cherokee - I am and can claim the designation, but I will not because I have not lived as one, I have not had the hardships, I do not have the awareness, and it would be very hypocritical and unjust of me to try to claim such an identity. Come November, Lord willing, I will finally be in my own place at St. Andrew’s House in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where a SINGLE FLOOR apartment of a newly renovated brownstone is going for something like $1.6 million.

In this neighborhood, Park Slope, I live in an incredible townhouse on 6th Ave. owned by a couple from St. Paul's. They are letting me stay here rent-free (except for next week, when I need to move all my stuff once again into the rectory while the rector is on vacation, which he took at this time because he knew I needed a place to stay and felt sorry for me). They are great, but I'm tired of it all. The neighborhood is great – just two blocks from Prospect Park with lots of great restaurants and interesting people to watch. I just want to be in a place I can honestly hand my hat, but I feel a bit guilty when I complain because I see around me those who are truly homeless and without resources. I have been provided for, God has been gracious with me.

Reform of the Reform

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I came across a website/blog dedicated to a "reform of the reform" within Roman Catholicism called "The New Liturgical Movement". It seems interesting and confirms what I've been hearing on many fronts that there is a renewed interest, particularly among younger laity and clergy within the Church of Rome (and within Anglicanism), to re-examine much of the Liturgical Renewal Movement and return to some of the more traditional rituals and piety – the disciple, splendor and beauty of worship rendered unto a glorious and mysterious God.

Considering that I'm now serving as Curate in a "non-fussy, Rite I, Anglo-Catholic" parish (the legacy of the Oxford Movement) with increasing numbers of young people, I think they may be onto something! Of course, we in "High Church" Anglicanism have known this for some time now! :-) (To be honest, I'm a relative new-comer, but I’m being trained well!)

I came across this particular website/blog via "Dappled Things" - a blog/website by a Gen-X Roman priest. I've been visiting his blog periodically for a while now - interesting guy.

Here is a couple paragraphs of a post on "The New Liturgical Movement" blog:

Two titles relating to the revival of Ritual in Anglican Britain

The scenario faced by the figures of the Oxford Movement presents a remarkable parallel, liturgically speaking, in the case of the Catholic Church today.

We face a variety of variants, with some parishes being liturgically more traditional (in Anglican parlance, "High" or "AngloCatholic") and then some being more "low" in nature -- that is, less traditional, less elaborate in its ceremonial, less ornamented generally. Of course, there is also the matter of theology. In the case of Anglicanism of course, these distinctions were far more hard and fast; in Catholicism, by contrast, it really comes down to what is legitimate liberty and what is simply dissent as compared to Catholic orthodoxy. That is a big difference of course.

Still, the liturgical parallels are interesting. Those Catholics with a keen sense of the need to "reform the reform" or preserve the classical liturgical forms face opposition and a "liturgically low" mentality from a number of quarters, be they some bishops, priests, or laity.

As such, I think it can be interesting to study the approach, trials and tribulations (not to mention the successes) of the likes of the Oxford Movement and Anglican Ritualists, as well as the Cambridge Camden Society who sought to restore an architecture suited toward Catholic liturgics.

In that vein, I wanted to share a couple of interesting titles with you.

The books he recommends are:
+ Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain 1830-1910 by Prof. Nigel Yates.
+ A Church As It Should Be edited by Christopher Webster and John Elliott

FrJake Comments

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Fr. Jake comments about this new breed of people who refer to themselves as "conservatives," yet hardly demonstrate the traditional definition of "conservative" by their actions. He references and posts a short essay by Teresa Mathes, wife of the Bishop of San Diego, who writes of her own experience being raised by true Episcopalian conservatives. She, too, suggests that what we see going on within our Church is not really traditional Anglican conservatism.

Islamic Imperialism

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An interesting review of a new book entitled Islamic Imperialism: A History by Efraim Karsh, head of the Mediterranean Studies Program at the University of London.

Click here to read the review.

On the other hand...

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Read the previous post first. Ultimately, for me the issue and/or question deals with Christian mission and witness...

On the other hand, here is another quote from the Focus-on-the-Family (FoF) essay:

Sexual harassment law as an instrument for suppressing religious speech? A few days after I interviewed Stern, an Alliance Defense Fund press release dropped into my mail box: “OSU Librarian Slapped with ‘Sexual Harassment’ Charge for Recommending Conservative Books for Freshmen.” One of the books the Ohio State librarian (a pacifist Quaker who drives a horse and buggy to work) recommended was It Takes a Family by U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Three professors alleged that the mere appearance of such a book on a freshman reading list made them feel “unsafe.” The faculty voted to pursue the sexual harassment allegation, and the process quickly resulted in the charge being dropped.

In the end the investigation of the librarian was more of a nuisance—you might call it harassment—than anything else. But the imbalance in terms of free speech remains clear: People who favor gay rights face no penalty for speaking their views, but can inflict a risk of litigation, investigation and formal and informal career penalties on others whose views they dislike. Meanwhile, people who think gay marriage is wrong cannot know for sure where the line is now or where it will be redrawn in the near future. “Soft” coercion produces no martyrs to disturb anyone’s conscience, yet it is highly effective in chilling the speech of ordinary people. (emphasis mine)

I have to agree with this! I cannot help but believe that those who do have a considered opposition to gay marriage have a right to make their points of view known. This is not an issue, for me, of an attempt to deny someone their right of free speech. I uphold the right of people in their work-place or in the public-arena to advocate for their position. But, this does not mean that their speech will be consequence free. What I appose is the misuse of data or the spinning of information disingenuously or dishonestly to support or promote one's position. As difficult, frustrating, and repugnant as it may be, I do support the right of even white supremacists, for example, to advocate their position.

The problem I see, and I know this from experience, is that if the culture-war, politicized Religious Right groups like FoF have their way, they will not allow such a wide berth for the freedom of speech. They would ban books from libraries that portrayed positively gay relationships. They've already championed this position in libraries across the country, and in some places have won the removal of books. They would not defend the right of gay advocates to present their positions equally alongside anti-gay positions. They would not allow this kind of free speech because they believe that advocating such positions is contrary to the will of God, plain and simply.

In addition, I am in opposition to the way the FoF and like groups are dealing with the issue of homosexuality in our culture because of the impact it has on a predominately post-Christian populace. The data they use to support their positions can fairly easily be disproved. The spin they place on other people's/groups' studies to support their positions can be easily repudiated. This type of twisting of information and the bearing of false witness against a whole class of people will only bring reproach and disgrace to all of Christianity and the cause of Christ. Advocate your position, but do it honestly and forthrightly! If we are to love our neighbor, how else can be proceed?

I read an essay this morning from Focus-on-the-Family (FoF) concerning the effect a marriage between 'Adam and Steve' will have on society. The essay comments on Catholic Charities pulling out of adoption and foster care placement in Massachusetts because state law forbids state-sanctioned organizations from discriminating against a list of people groups, and same-sex orientation is on the list.

Because Catholic Charities will no longer provide such services as a result of their determination that homosexuals are 'intrinsically disordered' and cannot provide a good environment for raising children, FoF says that this is a perfect example of the damage same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws covering homosexuals will have on society. It is a broad accusation. I think it is more spin than anything, and I don’t agree.

Here is an excerpt from the essay:

This March, then, unexpectedly, a mere two years after the introduction of gay marriage in America, a number of latent concerns about the impact of this innovation on religious freedom ceased to be theoretical. How could Adam and Steve’s marriage possibly hurt anyone else? When religious-right leaders prophesy negative consequences from gay marriage, they are often seen as overwrought. The First Amendment, we are told, will protect religious groups from persecution for their views about marriage.

So who is right? Is the fate of Catholic Charities of Boston an aberration or a sign of things to come?"

You can read the entire essay here.

Realize, the Massachusetts courts or legislature did not forbid Catholic Charities from functioning in the state; they simply said that discrimination will not be tolerated among those entities that the state oversees.

Are the politicized Religious-Right organizations, like FoF, willing to be consistent in the application of their beliefs and with the 'stuff' they use to justify their beliefs? From my experience and observation, no they will not.

I agree, with reservations, with Lieutenant Gov. Kerry Healey, Republican candidate for governor in the coming fall elections, who said, “I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state, and our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important.” (Quoted in Focus on the Family Citizen, from the Boston Globe, March 2)

The solution in a democratic society, of course, is to petition the state for relief, which Catholic Charities has done. The state has not acted as of yet, but Catholic Charities realizes it must live within a democratic system and if it cannot support or function under the laws of the state then it must cease operations. They are willing to pay the price under this system of governance and laws. I actually do respect Catholic Charities' decision - they are taking a principled stand regardless of whether I agree with it or not. I absolutely do not accept FoF's spin on the situation. It is a shame all the way around, but the fault does not rest with homosexuals, as FoF claims.

FoF and other culture-war religious organizations say that they, as religious institutions, are protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution so that they do not have to obey amendments or laws - national or state - that conflict with their beliefs. In this insistence, because they have a theoretical belief or biblical interpretive structure that claims homosexuals to be 'intrinsically disordered,' sinful and naturally dangerous to children, they claim the right to disobey laws and constitutions without consequence. So, on the pretext of religious freedom they claim the right to discriminate against homosexual families. (Of course, they would demand that homosexuals cannot have 'families' to begin with.)

Will they be consistent on the pretext of religious freedom, then, to demand that the Christian Identity Movement or the World Church of the Creator (the white supremacist group), have the same constitutional right to discriminate against Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or anyone who is not a white "Arian?" No, they will not. If they did, then what effect would non-discrimination laws have at all?

They claim that such a question is inappropriate because being homosexual is of a whole different order than an ethnic or racial identity. Homosexuality is purely and only a choice of behavior - heterosexual people who engage in same-gender sex acts. It is not the same as an unchangeable characteristic like ethnicity or race, they demand. The evidence is mounting against such a belief and homosexuals know it to be untrue of them selves, but it does not matter. The Religious Right groups are not interested in what reliable, verifiable, or appropriate-to-the-question studies show to be objectively true when the results differ from their already determined subjective 'truth,' or what personal experience witnesses to. They also readily misuse studies to attempt to prove their point - the Spitzer study is an example where they claim Spitzer's study proves that a homosexual orientation can be change into a heterosexual one. (Go here for a decent overview of the Spitzer controversy.)

This leads to my next question concerning consistency - the use, interpretation, and application of 'studies' and the assertion of 'facts.'

Are groups like FoF willing to be consistent in the use of a set of criteria to judge the reliability, verifiability, or appropriateness of any particular study that is claimed to address the question at hand? No, they are not. They reject out-of-hand any study that does not presumably support their already determined positions. They will not be consistent in reviewing studies that may disagree with their conclusions.

These are generalizations, of course, and I do believe that there are people who can have a principled stand on these issues, but groups like FoF tend not to. And, there are liberal groups that tend to do the very same thing concerning their own issues and presuppositions. All of this, however, only harms the claims of Christ's Church as it attempts to engage the prevailing culture. If it is too easy to disprove the claims of Christians by generally accepted sources, how can the Church have any credibility when it does attempt to appropriately speak to the culture on important issues?

Practical Orthodoxy

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From The Very Rev. Alan Jones' book, Common Prayer on Common Ground, on Anglican orthodoxy:

"Salvation isn't the ultimate reward fro believing abstract doctrines. Salvation is experienced through grace as our lives are 'converted,' and conversion is an ongoing process. Doctrine is practical. It has to do with practice, with what the tradition calls 'the experimental knowledge of God.'

"To be truly orthodox, doctrine must have an impact on the moral life. I remember some years ago a man screaming at the philosopher Jacob Needleman that to be a Christian you had to believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus. Needleman took the wind out of the young man's sails and said, 'Yes, you do. Now tell me, what does it mean? Tell me what difference it makes!' The young man had nothing to say. An elderly retired priest angrily thundered at me: 'Do you believe in the homoousian?' (this is the doctrine that Jesus Christ is of the same substance as the Father). I said, 'Yes, I do, but the more important question is why don't you love me?"

Hot, it is!

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This morning at 7:00 am when I left to catch the subway, it was 84 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity was high. I know it is much hotter in other places and the humidity is worse, too, but I'm not there nor would I want to live there. The equatorial regions of the planet may be spectacular in places, but I'm sure the people already living in those areas don't need one more person's body-heat adding to the already stifling conditions.

Last night when I went to get something to eat, I was surprised to see so few people on the street - so strange for an otherwise beautiful evening. I guess people just stayed indoors, and they were smart to do so. Today, there is an expectation that the actual temperature will reach 104 degrees. That's hot, no matter where you are.

Mars

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Is this true????

MARS; A SPECTACULAR SIGHT !

Mars - The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!

This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter's gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification

Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August it will rise in the east at 10.pm. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month.

NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN

No religious preference...

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A new study from the American Sociological Association reports on the dramatic rise in the population reporting "no religious preference" over the past decade or so. One primary reason, they posit, is the rise in the intertwining of religion and politics - people simply are turned off by it all and end up disengaging in organized religion or not becoming involved in the first place. Most of this group considering themselves "spiritual" (even believing in a traditional Christianity) rather than being "religious" and part of a Christian church.

Once again, I have been saying for a long time that I believe a reason for the demise of the U.S. mainline denominations, our own Episcopal Church included, is the intertwining of liberal politics and liberal theology. Each 'system' - political or theological - on its own has an integrity and strength and each can contribute to the understanding of the other, but when one is equated with the other both fail to live up to their potential. “Theo-politics” just doesn’t cut it, and in my opinion is an affront to the cause of the Gospel. The same can be said for conservatism, and the same dynamic is being witnessed even now.

Since the 1980’s another whole segment of American Christianity has become increasingly political and polarizing. This time, the politicized Religious Right has succeeded in enmeshing conservative politics and conservative theology within American Evangelicalism (and somewhat within Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, etc). I believe we will witness soon an exodus from American Evangelical denominations that have aligned themselves too closely with conservative political causes. Where these people will go, I have no idea. Perhaps to the increasing numbers of Americans who claim “no religious preference?”

Here is a paragraph from the study report:


Hout and Fischer maintain that one important reason for this change in religion preference is political. Specifically, their study found a link between having no religion and rejecting clerical activism, which supports their hypothesis that during the 1990s, having a religious identity increasingly became seen as an endorsement of conservative views. Hout and Fischer found that many liberal and moderate Americans felt that religion became distressingly politicized in the 1990s. As to the role of secularization (i.e., skepticism), the researchers did not find this to be a cause of the increase in "no religion," because most "no religion" responders maintain religious faith, a belief in God, and a belief in life after death.

New ultimatum, it seems...

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The Network of Anglican Diocese and Parishes (The Network), lead by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburg, is holding its annual council meeting. During a speech by Duncan in Trinity Cathedral, it seems to me that he has issued an ultimatum to Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Either you agree to our request for 'alternative primatial oversight,' or you seal the fate of the demise of the Anglican Communion as we have known it. Frankly, it sounds like blackmail. Do it our way, or the fault will be yours for the destruction of Anglicanism. Yes, well, there you go.

Fr. Cullen and I had a long talk last night over dinner about this problem within Anglicanism and its sister problems within our national political landscape and in world affairs. When one side or the other of any issue is determined to destroy the opponent and refuses to engage in honest dialogue to reach common understanding and compromise, democracy or any type of self-rule is impossible. All we are left with is fascism or some form of dictatorship. We are truly in sad days, even perhaps strange days, and possibly even dangerous days.

From the Episcopal News Service:

Network meeting opens with challenge to Canterbury

By Mary Frances Schjonberg

Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan, speaking July 31 to the opening session of the Anglican Communion Network's (ACN) Annual Council meeting in his role as the group's moderator, said that the Archbishop of Canterbury faces a critical test.

Duncan, speaking in the nave of Trinity Cathedral, said he is "hopeful...if not necessarily optimistic" about the appeal of seven dioceses for "alternative primatial oversight" or what he called "an extra-ordinary pastoral relationship with the Archbishop of Canterbury."

If the Archbishop of Canterbury finds a way to recognize the claim of the Network dioceses and of Network parishes in non-Network dioceses, "then Canterbury sustains and renews his claim to be 'gatherer" and 'moral voice' of the Communion," Duncan said.

"If he fails, any hope for a Communion-unifying solution slips away, and so does the shape and leadership of the Anglican Communion as we have known them," he warned.

Duncan's full address can be found here.

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