October 2006 Archives

The City #5

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So, last night some of our Home Group (St. Paul's) went to see one of our group members, Kelly Upshaw (The Hope Trust), perform at Union Hall in Park Slope. He did a great job!

On the walk back home, Fr. Cullen and I were passing by Carroll Park when suddenly these three guys suddenly start running, one falling and getting back up, then right behind them came this cop, radio in hand, followed by a police van with lights aflashing.

The three guys ran into the park, and the cop is shouting into his radio that they are going into the park. The park is a full NYC block - quite nice actually, but not big. Suddenly, all these sirens and lights converge on the park from all directions. One, two, and then three policy cars, another police van, and then an ambulance came into view, wheels screeching. Two more out-of-breath cops run from around the corner as pedestrians pointed and shouted to the police that the guys ran "that way, that way, that way."

We just kept walking and watching. What more could we do? Cop cars were whipping around the streets in every direction. Then, we heard this crash and I thought for a moment that it was a gun shot. I think one of the cop cars, going backwards very quickly, sideswiped one of the cars parked along the street. The smell of burning rubber started to fill the air.

As we got to the opposite corner of the park, heading for the Rectory, a few of the cop cars and policemen converged on the next block. We noticed that they got one of the guys, pushing his hand-cuffed, bad-boy self into the car. This morning after Morning Prayer, Fr. Cullen said he walked his dog afterwards and a couple streets down they had apprehended one more. He said, "He was just a kid. He had no look of anxiousness or fear..." The cops stayed around for around 45 minutes.

Drama in Brooklyn.

Strong argument?

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An argument the Religious Right continues to use against high-court rulings in states like New Jersey and Massachusetts concerning granting same-sex couples equal civil recognition of their relationships is that these accommodations are court-imposed - a tyranny of an unaccountable and activist judiciary. They claim that the responsibility for granting State recognition should be the domain of the legislatures, the people, only, and the courts should have no part in the establishment of what will be recognized as true "marriage."

I agree that the legislatures of the various states are the places for the creation of laws. The courts are charged with interpreting the constitutionality of those laws. The problem here is that when the courts decide cases contrary to the will of the Religious Right, their recourse is to denigrate the judiciary. That is a dangerous road to take – the attempt to place in the public’s consciousness suspicion and mistrust of the vary institution that is charged with protecting our rights. This tactic will come back to bite them, no doubt.

They use this argument as a primary justification for their campaign to enact through state referenda amendments to state constitutions that (will) define marriage only as state-recognized unions between men and women, and to deny same-sex couples any accommodation that resembles marriage.

This seems to be a very weak basis for their arguments - or rather a weak justification for opposing the courts. They pin their hopes on the feelings of "the people" and those who represent them. What happens to their position when the tide of public opinion changes? When public opinion changes to favor some sort of State recognition of same-sex relationships and state legislatures begin approving laws that reflect this change, what will they then do? What then will be their argument or justification for opposing State recognition of same-sex relationships?

Basing arguments on a foundation as fickle as public sentiment is a foundation built on sand. When the strong winds of public opinion shift and blow in another direction, their campaign will fail. They would be wise to stir-up public opinion based on some other sort of rational. So, my question is whether they understand this or whether they truly have such a strong sense of the “rightness" of their cause, or as Stephen Colbert might say, "truthiness," that they believe public opinion will never change to such an extent?

Constitutional amendments have been passed and rescinded. The new amendments to state constitutions baring recognition of same-sex relationships will be another example of this; it just depends on who extensive is the public hysteria, stirred up by their propaganda, over this issue and how long it will last. Their position may be arguable, but the foundation upon which they base their argument is not strong – it is profoundly weak.

This video on YouTube will make the Religious Right go into apoplectic fits. (originally Via Father Jake Stops the World, and then onto Elizabeth Kaeton's blog)

Things are certainly different in the Netherlands.

I've wondered whether the decline in church involvement in much of Europe is a process of shedding the cultural and religious baggage that has so weighed down European Christianity in order for a more Christ-centered form of the faith to develop. I don't know, but perhaps.

Then, will we have to suffer through a similar thing here in the U.S.? So much of what passes for the faith of those who claim to follow Jesus Christ is culturally American rather than that of a way of being and living that is alien to this world and its systems. Do we need to die to this form of "Church," in whatever tradition, before we can simply be in God's way of being?

What might this video and this young man singing about his two fathers suggest? To some, travesty, and to others it may mean much needed progress.

Finally, I'm in one place

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This past weekend, I flew to Ohio and drove back to New York with the stuff I had in storage in Ohio. For the first time in four and a half years, all my belongings are in one place. At one point a few months ago, I had stuff in five different locations. That isn't a good thing!

Now, all I have to do is get everything organized and try to answer the pertinent question, “Why in the world did I keep this?"

Aimee Mann writes in her song, I've Had It, that "when things are really great, it just means that everything is in its place."

So, now, I've got to find everything's place!?

Tell me where I am wrong!

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Okay, so I've been having this ongoing debate/discussion/whatever-it-might-be-called on a post at Titueonenine.

What have I said that is contrary to the Word of God or the way we should be responding and reacting to one another as followers of Christ? I realize that most of the Church universal will disagree with those who call for a re-evaluation of how the Church has traditionally interpreted the few verses of Scripture that have been traditionally considered relevant for the debate over homosexuality. That is a given. What about the rest of it?

The City #4

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Well, Lord & Taylor is getting ready for Christmas, already. The lights are going up outside their main mid-town story. Time continues on...

This morning, I can say is the first time someone on the street has called me a "fucking pervert!" Pardon my language. I was walking along and saw this youngish lady walking briskly towards me. Nothing unusual about that. I noticed that her face looked hard; hard in the sense of someone who isn't happy unless they are complaining or perceive themselves to be unhappy - ya know what I mean. Anyway, she was nicely dressed and all-things-considered not bad looking.

So, as we passed each other the coat (I presume) she was carrying and slightly flinging by her side hit my leg. No big deal, right? Well, all of a sudden I hear, "Watching it you fucking pervert."

I just ignored her and walk on, but I thought, "If she only knew." Frankly, if she did know that I would be almost the last person who would be acting perversely towards her, she still would have hurled some sort of invective towards me.

'do not be'

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I'm reading a book by James Alison, a British theologian in the 'Catholic' tradition, entitled Faith Beyond Resentment: fragments catholic and gay. Alison's approach to theology and Scripture, particularly related to how it is all actually lived out, amazes and challenges me. I heard him speak at last year's Trinity Institute. The one thing I truly appreciate about him is that he admits he could be wrong - and that fact can has significant consequences. In fact, that is one reason he converted to Roman Catholicism from British Evangelicalism - within the Catholic theological make-up, there is the freedom to be wrong.

This quote comes from his personal experience in dealing with false accusations from some Roman church authorities as they tried to get him expelled from a theology teaching position in Brazil over his honesty about being gay and his calling upon the church to begin an honest and open conversation about this issue. He then recognized his own complicity in the "mechanisms" that lead the whole affair. (There was never any accusation of behavioral problems. He remained chaste. It all revolved around hearsay and the openness of his beliefs.) What follows is his reflection and change of mind and heart that came during a Jesuit retreat right after the incident. What he describes happening to him and his way of thinking and being can be applied to any of us, gay or straight, for it is the process of dying and of rebirth within God's way of being.

Here is a quote:

"Where denial, mendacity and cover up are forces which structure a reality, the search for honest conversation is, of itself, the worst from of militancy...

"Well, my reply, while formally correct, allowed me to hide from myself something which my various accusers had perceived perfectly clearly: that I was myself on a sort of crusade, that I had a zeal, and that this zeal of a prodigiously violent force, powered by a deep resentment. In fact, I was wanting to create for myself, taking advantage of the ecclesiastical structures which sustained me, a space of security and peace, of survival. Thus I hoped to avoid what I had seen happen to gay people in country after country: social marginalization, destruction of life projects, emotional and spiritual annihilation. That is to say, my brave discourse was a mask which hid from me my absolute cowardice of soul, for I was not prepared to identify myself fully with that reality, which I knew to be mine, with all its consequences. At root, I myself believe that God was on the side of ecclesiastical violence directed at gay people, and couldn't believe that God loves us just as we are. The profound 'do not be' which the social and ecclesiastical voice speaks to us, and which forms the soul of so many gay people, was profoundly rooted in my own being, so that, au fond I felt myself damned. In my violent zeal I was fighting so that the ecclesiastical structure might speak to me a 'Yes', a 'Flourish, son', precisely because I feared that, should I stand alone before God, God himself would be part of the 'do not be'. Thus I was absolutely dependent on the same mechanism against which I was fighting. Hiding from myself the fact of having despaired of God, I wanted to manipulate the ecclesiastical structure so that it might give me a 'self', that it might speak to me a 'Yes' at a level of profundity of which the ecclesiastic structure, like any human structure, is incapable. For the 'Yes' which creates and recreates the 'self' of son, only God can pronounce. In this I discovered myself to be an idolater. I had been wanting to negotiate my survival in the midst of violent structures, and negotiation in the midst of violent structures can only be done by violence. The non-violent, the blessed of the gospels, simply suffer violence and parish, either physically or morally...

"And then, at root, what began this whole process of beginning to untie myself from the idols I had so assiduously cultivated, what I had never dared to image, the profound 'Yes' of God, the 'Yes' spoken to the little gay boy who had despaired of ever hearing it. And there, indeed, I found myself absolutely caught, because this 'Yes' does not take the form of a pretty consolation for a spoiled child. Rather, from the moment it reached me, the whole psychological and mental structure by which I had built myself up over all the previous years began to enter into a complete collapse. For the whole structure was based on the presupposition of a 'No' at the center of my being, and because of that, of the need to wage a violent war so as to cover up a fathomless hole. The 'I', the 'self' of the child of God, is born in the midst of the ruins of repeated idolatry...

"But it was exactly this that, at last, I was learning. [from Col. 3:1-3] The whole of my previous life had been marked by an absolute refusal to die."


Oh, if we all would be willing to die to self and to die to the systems of this world, and to allow God to bring rebirth and renewal to our souls, to our ways of being, to our voices and lives, we might truly be able to change the world - or at least be a sweet smelling fragrance to the stench of a pain-filled and dying world.

iPod Shuffle - 10:00 am

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Here are the songs given to me by my iPod set on "Suffle." I'm not quite sure why my iPod keeps givning me, generally, the same artists over and over again since I've got far more than these lists seem to suggest. Go figure.

1. Sufjan Stevens, Romulus, from 'Greetings from Michigan...'
2. Skott Freedman, Been Waiting For, from 'Some Company'
3. Kate Bush, You're The One, from 'The Red Shoes'
4. Sigur Ros, Gong, from 'Takk'
5. Various Artists, Down To The River To Pray, from 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'
6. Rick Astley, Cry For Help, from 'Free'
7. Smashing Pumpkins, Untitled, from 'Rotten Apples:Greatest Hits'
8. Cowboy Junkies, 'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel, from 'Best of the Cowboy Junkies'
9. Sarah McLauchlan, I Love You, from 'Surfacing'
10. Halloween, Alaska, All The Arms Around You, from 'Halloween, Alaska'
11. Sugay, Changes, from 'Copper Blue'

Via:
Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things:

The rules, for bloggers who want to play:

Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel!

Can we fully imagine God?

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Fr. Jake references a critique of a new book, and then offers comments on the relationship between they mystery of God, our limited ability to understand God in His fullness, and those who demand an absolutist system of belief and how secular atheists tend to stereotype all Christians according to the very conservative and absolutist sort. It is an interesting post. Read it, if you will.

The War on Terror

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While listening to NPR this morning, I heard a news piece on the changing strategy of this administration for "The War on Terror."

What struck me, as I think about my own reactions to things and the common responses we make as a nation, is the idea of where we go first within ourselves and within our national psyche when we respond to events and threats. Do we go first: to force, to negotiation, to acquiescence, to isolation, to dialogue, to the old tried methods, to the trendy, to the violent, to the verbose, or to the hypocritical? What is the nexus of our reaction: pride, haughtiness, fear, confidence, humility, true concern for others, cowardice, selfishness, arrogance, or intentional ignorance? Our better selves, or our worst selves?

There were two approaches, two worldviews, two mindsets battling for attention right after 9-11 as we searched ourselves for the right response. One approach was that of empire, force, dominance, and arrogance. The other may be based on a sense of self-absurdity that requires humility. We could have approached this tragedy and the complex issues surrounding it with a response by which we are able to convince the majority of people who we see as the “problem” of our way, our perspective - peace, freedom, co-existence, development, mutual respect if not agreement. It can be said to be a battle of minds, ideas, or beliefs. It seems that the way of Rumsfeld eclipsed the way of Powell. Military vs. State.

We settled for a “War on Terror,” rather than a battle of ideas and ways of thinking for the hearts and minds of those "other" people. We settled for a war that requires no sacrifice on the home-front, just our sons and daughters in foreign lands and the countless killed in other own countries. Are we more secure or not? Are Iraqis better off – really? My hope is that we will in fact come through this in one piece and that Iraq will develop into a stable democracy. Yet, only after undeniable failure is this administration finally willing to consider that “staying the course” will only make things worse. A new way of thinking is needed – perhaps the way of thinking that was rejected in the beginning.

There are those who will fight to kill and with whom there is no mutual agreement possible - they will kill to achieve their goals. They are tyrants and dictators. These people are not the majority of Arab and Muslims, but the majority could come to sympathize with the terrorists. If we choose to respond and react like those who will kill and destroy to achieve their ends, we become like them - unworthy of the respect, cooperation, or allegiance of those found in the middle of the crisis and on the battlefield.

We have been losing the battle of ideas, of minds, of affections over the past years because we try to be tougher and more menacing then the terrorists. We have become like them, and we have lost the minds, the emotions, and the respect of Arabs, Muslims, and much of the world. I really don’t care whether we are liked or not, but I do care whether we are respect for our integrity, honesty, consistency, and willingness to seek solutions that enable everyone to be a piece – perhaps not agreement or acceptance, but at least at peace. Idealistic?, perhaps, but we really do need a new way of thinking about the situations we are in worldwide.

Test

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This is a test.

Where do we go from here?

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So, it seems the Bush administration, at least some within the administration, are willing to admit that things are not going as planned in Iraq. Perhaps, there may be even a re-evaluation of whether our policy and strategy have been correct. Staying the course when it seems the situation is continually deteriorating is not prudent or wise.

People have been saying for years now that our strategy towards Iraq is untenable and unwinable. The voices of those who called upon the administration to step "outside the box" of "old-war" mentality of conflict between states were ignored or ridiculed. This war is being fought under an old and inappropriate model, in my uninformed opinion. In my mind, we are like the English in their attempt to defeat the revolutionaries during our war of independence. They just didn't get the fact that their way of fighting just didn’t work any longer, and they lost. Some people in this administration just don't seem to get the fact that the way of war has now changed.

If we end up pulling out of Iraq before we reach our stated goals or if the conflict ends in a way that suggests our weakness and the American people's unwillingness to complete what we began, legitimately or illegitimately, the impression is that we are unreliable, unstable in our commitments, and are willing to let huge numbers of people die in our wayward attempts to impose our will on the world. Okay, but what do we do now?

The American people will fight to the end and sacrifice whatever needs to be sacrificed if we believe that the conflict is for a greater good. The World Wars are good examples. We entered them reluctantly and overcome our isolationist tendencies. Vietnam and now this war in Iraq were entered into not for some greater good that will benefit not just us but the world. No, we entered into these wars upon a faulty foundation, and with a faulty and perhaps illegitimate intent, and we are witnessing the results.

Will we learn? Will there be leaders willing to move towards a solution that recognizes the complexities of the new world dynamic? I hope so. Perhaps the more important question is whether the American people will be wise enough to recognize a good leader from a poor one. Will we allow ourselves to be manipulated, again? Will we recognize wisdom? Will we realize the folly of empire? Will we recognize that there really is a solution, but it will mean that we change our way of thinking and our way of relating to much of the world? I hope so. This isn’t about liberal vs. conservative. Those paradigms mean little in this day in day, frankly. It will take someone, all of us, to look beyond these ways of dicing up the world and one another.

Okay, one more thing...

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The warning applied to the Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church:

Galatians 5:14-15 (TNIV)

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

We are devouring one another. It is a travesty. The distinctive spirit of Anglicanism is under great pressure to give way to the spirit of the world, the devises and desires of men.

Off Target

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It's too easy to be pulled off target. What should be the few basic things we aim for in life that will bring about an honest and true balanced life?

In a culture of consumption and a culture that demands our self-worth be defined by externals (the degree of wealth or power or physical prowess or beauty or talent or education or whatever-lifts itself-up-at-the-moment) that we can accumulate or attain, we will never make it to that point of balance if we allow ourselves to be subsumed by its demands.

To what are we called? Within the Christian faith, it is first to love God with all our being and secondly to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Selflessness? Considering the needs of or what will benefit others before our own needs? Rejection of those things within culture that work counter to the Way of Christ? What is the "Way of Christ?"

Really, what is that "Way" - can we disassociate from our culture enough and put aside the demands of our fellow citizens who consciously or unconsciously demand our acquiescence and confirmation to the culture's way-of-things to begin to learn, to move, to have our being within God's economy of life?

Jesus was crucified for looking at things in such a way. His disciples where martyrs because of that way of being. What could it cost us? What will it cost to keep balance, to keep our sight on the target? I don't know if I'm doing such a good job.

Galatians 5:1 - Freedom in Christ

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

I've had it!

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I've just about had it with the blatant lying and misinformation - bearing false witness - of leaders and organizations of the Religious Right. Focus-on-the-Family's daily e-mail news update had a piece about the growing number of Gay Chambers of Commerce, and how they are just ploys to desensitize regular, god-fearing Americans to the perversion of gay behavior.

Here are a couple paragraphs:

Gay chambers of commerce exist in at least a half-dozen states, and in cities as large as Chicago. One, called Plexus, is forming in Cleveland — and organizers say Chase and KeyBank are already on board, with additional partnerships being eyed with other trade groups like the Greater Cleveland Partnership and the Council of Smaller Enterprises.

Cleveland resident Charles Giunta said such gay chambers are part of homosexual activists' drive for special status under the law.

"That way," he said, "they can access federal funding, state funding, local funding as a behavior-based minority."

Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, said even though the gay community brags about its buying power, the bravado is often more myth than muscle.

"The vast majority of people involved in homosexuality are projected by many studies to be people that are employed sporadically, because of their lifestyle," she said. "They are more unstable."

So, Linda Harvey, who I know from Ohio and who makes the most outlandish and false statements, writes that gay people are so unstable that they can't keep jobs. I remember so vividly the arguments used by the anti-gay Religious Right a few years ago declaring that gay people should not be given "special rights" because they make so much more money than average citizens, are far better educated than average citizens, and have much more economic influence that average citizens. They speak out of both sides of their mouths.

Linda Harvey, and Focus for disseminating her statements, are charlatans. They have to know that their pronouncements are so blatantly false. They are liars, and their sin will catch up with them. How many more people have to suffer and be deceived because of their idiocy? How much more damage will the cause of Christ undergo because of their hypocrisy and false witness. Their cause is lost if this is the way they attempt to win - they take people to be fools.

iPod Shuffle - 11:30 am

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What was given to me this morning by my iPod. It is so giving and demands so little!

1. Sarah McLauchlan, Ice Cream, from 'Fumbling Towards Ecstasy'
2. Smashing Pumpkins, Tonight, Tonight. from 'Rotten Apples: Greatest Hits'
3. Sarah McLauchlin, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, from 'Solace'
4. Sufjan Stevens, Romulus, from 'Greetings from Michigan...'
5. Natalie Imbruglia, Good Bye, from 'White Lillies Island'
6. Suzanne Vega, Songs in Red and Gray, from 'Songs in Red and Gray'
7. Sarah Brightman, Scarborough Fair, from 'La Luna'
8. Wilson Philips, Impulsive, from 'Wilson Philips'
9. Joi, Everybody Say Yeah, from 'One and One is One'
10. Eastmountainsouth, Mark's Song, from 'Eastmountainsouth'

Subway Observation #3

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Yesterday, I was riding the "F" train back to Brooklyn. Around 32nd. St., I noticed on the other end of the train another guy in a clergy collar. "Hum," I thought, "I wonder who he is."

Through the next couple of stops and as the congestion lightened a bit on the train, the other guy came closer. Finally, we introduced ourselves. He had on an "Anglican style" collar, so I figured him to be an Episcopalian or perhaps a Lutheran.

He asked, "Roman or Episcopalian?"

He is a Roman Catholic priest, pastor of a parish, and was just returning from the meeting with the Archbishop of this archdiocese of all clergy concerning the anonymous letter of no confidence. He said it was not a nice meeting and the archbishop made a number of enemies that day.

I don't think I have ever seen another clergy person in a collar on the subway, other than other clerics I am with at the time. It is strange, and I was surprised to feel like, "Oh, another one of me!"

"Godself"

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An interesting post and article on Pontifications about the use the term "Godself" as a non-gender specific variant of the the traditional pronoun "himself." I could say, rather: the attempted enforcement of political-correctness by a small group of people who think that refering to God in the masculine encourages violence to women - or even wife-beating, so says some Church of England clergy. As the Ponficator writes, send in the folks of Monty Python - this is all getting a bit silly.

Read the article.

via Titusonenine

On the other hand, this need among some to make sure that we never refer to God in any way but the masculine is equally problematic, and in my humble opinion absurd. God, in creating us in His/Her/Godsown image, created us male and female. Doesn't that suggest that God is both and neither exclusively?

I tend to think that we simply cannot competently or correctly demand God be what we want God to be. I may use "He," with a capital H, but that doesn't mean I must believe God is completely male. It doesn't mean I cannot accommodate those who refer to God in the feminine, except maybe when those other people insist that the only way I can refer to God is the way they demand I refer to God. Ya know what I mean? God is my father in heaven, therefore I image God in the masculine, but that’s just me.

The Good fight - or is it?

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Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, had a big shin-dig in his honor the other day. He has been named one of the 100 most influential people in the world this year by Time magazine, it seems.

Here is a report from an African online news source coving the event with highlights of Akinola's speech to those assembled.

One quoted part of Akinola's speech is worth noting, I think:

"The real reason is that the leaders of the Christian faith in the western world have come to realize that Africans can no longer be put under spiritual slavery.

“The Europeans who knew nothing about African origin and background had been trying to impose things on us.

“We have been through physical slavery, we have been through economic slavery, political slavery and now spiritual slavery", he said."

Spiritual slavery? The West is now attempting to spiritually enslave Africans?

There is no question that the West has exploited Africa and Africans. Chattel slavery was (and is) a tragedy. Akinola needs to also acknowledge the role of tribal Africans in the enslavement of their own people and the exploitation that occurs within all societies, cultures, and nations through time - Nigeria included.

To cast the consecration of a gay American Bishop, the ordinations of gay priests, or the advocacy in some corners of same-sex unions (the cause of current controversies within world-wide Anglicanism) in the West in a similar light as forced physical slavery is ridiculous and disingenuous. He may honestly perceive things in this way, but it is just plain wrong and profoundly misplaced. Is he being honest, or is he simply making hyperbolic statements for effect?

To posit that what the Western Church has done is an attempt to enslave the African Churches is absurd. They simply do not have to accept Western bishops, priests, deacons, or policies. That is their right as autonomous provinces within Anglicanism. The Western Churches do not have the authority to impose anything on the African Churches. We are not attempting to withhold money to force them to accept our viewpoint. As a matter of fact, Uganda and other diocese have rejected funds freely given by the American Church with no strings attached for medical and poverty relief.

Peter Akinola should be ashamed of himself. He can disagree and passionately advocate for his position, even to the point of breaking fellowship. That is his prerogative, but to claim we are attempting to "spiritually enslave" Africans is beyond the pale.

The website also reports:

Akinola... said the latest attempt to bring in immoral practices into the Anglican Church by some western countries is bound to crumble.

He said our western brothers appeared about to reason with us in this struggle. "They are beginning to say, let’s look at their points of argument, may be these people are right".

I don't think Akinola's opinion is correct. I don't think he will find the West, at least most of it, agreeing with him. He will see it as further evidence of the West's apostasy, but he truly does approach these subjects from a very "fundamentalist" position - it is his position and none other.

Spiritual Autobiography

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In our proto-Home Group (I am helping St. Paul's develop a Home Group/Cell Group structure) two weeks ago, we were reading through the final sections of Peter's first epistle. We are to be prepared always to give a defense for why we believe. So, the assignment for this week's home group is to write a "spiritual autobiography" with the thought in the back of our minds to write in a way that will help us be prepared to give a reason for why we believe.

Here in New York, there is a kind of fascination of those who have faith, but generally for those who can simply live a life of faith without the rancor or antagonism or condemnation that is so prevalent in many Christians of a certain sort who are doing battle in their Culture War. I can't help but run into people who want to discuss spiritual issues, God, Christianity, and what it all means in and for life. To be able to give a good explanation of or reason for the faith is important.

Fr. Jake Stops the World
has made available space for essays, what in Evangelicalism would be called a testimony - of sorts, of faith and of why Anglicanism and The Episcopal Church is now so important to the writers. The first story reminds me in many ways of my own story - my own defense of the faith.

For this week's home group, I hope to better hone my understanding of my own spiritual journey, why I came into Anglicanism, and why I am now a priest in this Church. This is a different endeavor than the spiritual autobiographies I’ve had to write leading up to ordination. It is important to remind ourselves, those of us who find in easier to talk about the significance of God in our lives, to remind ourselves why we continue on this very challenging and difficult journey of relationship with God.

One of those days

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Today is one of those days. I'm fed up with people not making decisions, not following through, and things not getting done. I'm tired of waiting on other people when I know I could get the thing done in far less time, and frankly with far less effort.

I'm tired of being inconvenienced by the efforts, or lack of efforts, of others. There are just times when the perceived incompetence of others becomes too much.

Then, I have to tell myself that I am not any better. Do I really believe that? In some circumstances, absolutely. In other circumstances, not at all, but feigning humility in these instances is a cultural requirement.

I determined a number of years ago after becoming so danged frustrated with idiotic Christians and this sub-par subcultural "American Christian" life that attempts to pass for a real life-in-Christ, that I would try to the best of my ability to be honest, open, transparent, vulnerable, and as real as I can possibly be. I understand the ramifications of trying to be such a person. I realize that when I strive to make my "yes's" be "yes" and my "no's" be "no," that some people will not understand and will not like it. Yet, what else can I do? Part of the first step in attempting to be this way, at least for me, was to recognize and acknowledge my own failures and realize that I can and will be absolutely wrong.

If I do not want to fall into the same trap that so many other people fall into, if I don't want to play the same childish games that we Christians so often play, if I don't want to be a hypocrite, how else can I live my life other than to try to be as open, honest, vulnerable, and Christ-like as I can be? I have to admit, at the same time, that I fail, often. That is the painful reality of it all.

I can do nothing else and remain true to what I believe Christ calls me to. I cannot help how others will respond or react. I've been turned down. I may not realize positions of authority or opportunities because I don't "play the game" like the big-boys/girls want it played. It isn't about being heroic or anti-anything, but about being as true to what I perceive as the call of God for my life as I can be, with God’s help. What else can I do?

iPod Shuffle - 11:45 am

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What my iPod gave me this morning:

1.Dolly Parton, Little Sparrow, from 'Little Sparrow'
2. Bush, Alien, from 'Sixteen Stones'
3. Suzanna Vega, Priscilla, from 'Songs in Red and Gray'
4. Sigar Ros, Glospoli, from 'Takk...'
5. Slavyanka Men's Chorus, Ny mye otpushch ayeshi (Lord, Now Lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart), from 'Russian Church Music'
6. Aimee Mann, Little Bombs, from 'The Forgotten Arm'
7. Origional Cast Recording, One Short Day, from 'Wicked'
8. Slavyanka Men's Chorus, Na ryeklakh vavilonskikh (By the River of Babylon), Russian Church Music
9. Peter Tchaikovsky by The USSR Ministry of Culture Choir, Amen, And With Thy Spirit, from 'Sacred Treasures I'
10. Halloween, Alaska, Halloween, from 'Halloween, Alaska'

This idea comes from Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things:

I'm happy that this seems to be fairly popular. The rules, for bloggers who want to play:

Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel! Maybe link the songs to online music stores for readers' convenience.

Okay, why not?

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I am encouraged and frustrated and disappointed and perplexed by what I see happening within the growing and emerging expression of the Christian faith in the U.S., particularly within the Emergent Church conversation and beyond and the lost opportunities by The Episcopal Church – the Anglican expression in the U.S.

The post-American-Evangelical and post-Liberal-Mainline experience is beyond the politicized Religious-Right, beyond Borg, Spong, and liberation-theology, beyond the "Seeker-Church" movement, beyond the Baby-Boomer necessity to cast down all that came before them, beyond the 1960's generational demand of feminism, political-correctness, queerism, identity-politics, yadda, yadda, yadda. It is more than simply reaction to the generation before them. It is a restoration. Thank God, thank God, thank God Almighty!

Finally, the newer generational distinctives are coming back around to re-discovering the baby that was thrown out with the proverbial bathwater.

Yet, why are we who have had these things of liturgy, beauty in worship, sacramental theology, monasticism, the Daily Offices of the fixed-hour prayer missing it? So much energy of this new expression of the Faith takes up the task of re-inventing what has been (is?) the best of us - why must we re-invent the wheel to make the journey?

Why? Because we have forgotten our heritage! Why? Because too many of us have lost the relational aspect of God and the transformational aim of the Gospel! Why? Because we have been deluded by the psychotheraputic cult of self-esteem! There are so many other reasons.

We have in many places repudiated our ancient and marvelous traditions. I am so encouraged that younger people are re-discovering all of this, but the very Church that has exhibited and lived into all this stuff is in the process of repudiating it all in the name of innovation and God only knows why else. Is innovation or change wrong? Absolutely not, but if it is done to force an agenda upon people and the Church, then it is wrong, particularly if the change being perpetuated is not that which speaks to the needs of the future of the Church! Oh, and the prophetic work of the Holy Spirit is not those actions or intentions coming forth from us that conveniently support our agendas.

My rant is over. I hope to be more coherent and complete in the future.

iPod Shuffle - 10:30 am

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What appeared on my iPod this morning?

1. Dolly Parton - I Will Always Love You
2. Sufjan Stevens - Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head... from 'Greetings from Michigan..."
3. Evan Dando - Rain
4. Rochmaninov - Grant Us This O Lord from 'Sacred Treasures III'
5. Kat Williams - Stand By Me from 'Compilation'
6. U2 - Gloria from 'October'
7. Skott Freedman - Its Been a While from 'Swimming After Dark'
8. Rochmoninov - Peaceful Light (Kiev Chant) from 'Sacred Treasures III'
9. The GTS Scola & David Hurd - A Heart that Centers, Lord on Your...
10. Slavyandka Mens Chorus - Otche nash (Our Father) from 'Russian Church Music'

This idea comes from Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things:

I'm happy that this seems to be fairly popular. The rules, for bloggers who want to play:

Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel! Maybe link the songs to online music stores for readers' convenience.

In beauty and reverence

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The organist and choirmaster of St. Paul's commented the other day about how so few churches these days give consideration to the aesthetic - beauty and solemnity in the worship service, the mass. The comment and conversation prior to the comment dealt with the rumor that the next U.S. Book of Common Prayer might leave out all Rite I liturgies, gone would be their theological significance and particularly the older and more Elizabethan-style language.

This, frankly, would be a tragic mistake sense younger generations, generally, are attracted to and prefer the older, Elizabethan-style language (thee's and thou's, etc). I've experience this dynamic over and over again. To them, this is the language of the Church - that which is tried and true, ancient, not swayed by whim and trend. In like manner, so many young people are attracted to traditional Church architecture rather than the striped-down "seeker church" model. The tragedy would be that those in control would push through their agenda of change despite what demographic information is telling us about those who are making up the future of the Church.

It is about the esthetic present in worship. It is about creating a place and a space in time where the beautiful is presented and experienced. It is one of the primary emphases of The Oxford Movement. The beautiful can be experienced in high or low ritual, and both can be a distraction.

God is worthy of our best efforts. All that we do we shall do as if unto the Lord. The worship of God should be an experience of the beautiful in music, in vestments, in architecture, in language, in art, in manual acts, in our attention and devotion. When during the Eucharist all time is merged into one - the Church Victorious, the Church Militant, the Church Eminent - we are caught up into the experience of Heaven and present with the Great Cloud of Witness. We are in the presence of God Almighty.

How else can we respond? What else is there to do but to give up to God our best?

Intolerance of Christianity?

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From an article on Christianity Today's website covering the recent survey of evangelical ministries about what is in store for the future of Christianity. I presume in the U.S.

Here is a quote:

Mark Dever, pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., believes a pluralistic culture will turn increasingly intolerant of Christian faith.

I would counter that the pluralistic culture, in general, has become intolerant of intolerant Christians! While some people are intolerant of religion all together, they make up a very small percentage of the population.

iPod Shuffle - 8:30 am

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So, Fr. Jim Tucker from Dapple Things is posting random iPod shuffle lists of the first 10 songs played. Here are the rules he suggests:

The rules, for bloggers who want to play:

Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel! Maybe link the songs to online music stores for readers' convenience.

And so, I begin with this list from my train ride to Mid-town Manhattan:

1. Cowboy Junkies: 'Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning' from Best of Cowboy Junkies
2. Aimee Mann: 'Video' from The Forgotten Arm
3. Smashing Pumpkins: 'The Everlasting Gaze' from Rotten Apples: Greatest Hits
4. Slavyanka Men's Chorus: 'Dostonino yest' (It Is Fitting)' from Russian Church Music
5. Skott Freedman: 'Lately' from Swimming After Dark
6. Bobri Christov: 'Hymn of the Cherubim' (excerted/edictd) from Sacred Treasures I
7. Bob Griffith - my Senior Sermon at GTS - not a song and too long for now...
8. Sigur Ros: 'Svo Hijott' from Takk...
9. Moby: 'Hotel Intro' from Hotel, Disk 1
10. Sufjan Stevens: 'We Won't Need Legs to Stand' from Seven Swans

Subway Observation #2

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Young woman sitting on the train, traveling
Beautiful in black and turquoise,
hair pulled back
She's sleepy, tired, eyes closing slowly
Her neck goes slack, tilting back, long neck
a vampire's dream
Her mouth falls agape, eyes shut tight
If she saw a picture of this moment,
she would be embarrassed
The train jumps to a stop, a jolt
She awakens with a jump, startled
The train moves forward,
all things begin again
Nothing new under the sun.

Votive Mass of the Eucharist

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Well, tomorrow I will be singing my first mass. St. Paul's is initiating me into the ranks of those priests who carry on the tradition of singing the service. As some are well aware, singing is by far not my strong point. I am very thankful that so many have reinforced my music professor, David Hurd's, teaching that this is not a performance. It isn't. It is for the worship of God, and God loves even a joyful noise! The parishioners are very patient and good natured with me mistakes.

I am aware, however, that a really lousy job can and will effect the experience of worship for some. I've been practicing, a lot. Breath. Breath. Breath. That is Mark Peterson's constant refrain as he patiently helps me along with my chanting/singing.

A Votive Mass of the Eucharist with Benediction

Thursday, Oct. 5th, 2006 - 7:30 pm

St. Paul's Episcopal Church
199 Carroll St. (Corners of Clinton and Carroll)
Brooklyn, NY 11231

I was reading a review of Andrew Sullivan's new book, The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back by Mark Gauvreau Judge of Christianity Today.

He doesn't think much of the book, primarily it seems because Sullivan writes that we are bound by our culture, time, and place and because of this and other reasons we cannot know for sure. Sullivan separates "conservatism" from "fundamentalism." Fundamentalists, it seems, say that "we know!" From the review, it seems Sullivan claims that true conservatives are willing to say "we are not sure" or “we do not know.” I haven’t read the book, so I am relying on Judge’s review of the book.

Here's the thing: there are large swaths of the Church that feel that they must say "we know!" They do not separate empirically confirmed knowledge from belief or faith. Our Christian life is based on what? Fact or Faith? It is based on faith because it is not empirically provable. It is metaphysics, not physics. Scripture says in I Corinthians 13:12

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

There are those who convince themselves that what they believe is absolute and without question - making what is held by faith into something of fact. They must deny the truth in order to believe the Truth. I can say with all expectation that I am saved through Jesus Christ, but what proves it? Nothing empirically - it is only by faith that it is realized within me. Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Well then, of course, anyone who does not agree with the "facts" is apostate and cannot know God. Yet, Scripture tells us that we will not fully (exactly) know what is the Truth of God until we see Him face-to-face.

This isn't relativism as it has been known. It is humility. It is humility in the sense that we do not think that in this time and in this place and in this culture that we have all knowledge, all that is necessary to know, or that we are now for the first time capable to knowing all things. It simply is not the case, and to claim otherwise is contrary to reason, tradition, and Scripture. Paul wrote, "I know that I know that I know...." We can claim the same and it is true to us, but the assertion is based on faith.

So, if Sullivan will not confirm to this swath of the Church that there are certain things we must know absolutely and without question and can know as "fact," then he is (we are) what?, a relativist, an agnostic, a person believing contrary to the Truth of God. If Judge is accurate concerning what Sullivan honestly believes, and if Judge demands that Sullivan is in grave error if he says, "I'm not sure," then perhaps Judge is a fundamentalist after all, and not a true conservative.

It is hard to truly move within an intrinsic sense of humility – I do not know everything and I could be wrong. It is God-given as we yield ourselves to formation in God’s ways. Oh, that we are able to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.

Hum...

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I went to ex-gaywatch's website to see how the whole Foley issue was being addressed, and I came across this new report written by Jim Burroway and published on Turtle Box Bulletin.

From the website:

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths is a parody. It was modeled after various pamphlets, books, CDs and videos produced by Agape Press, the American Family Association, Americans for Truth, the Center for Reclaiming America, Concerned Women for America, the Corporate Research Council, Exodus, the Family Research Council, the Family Research Institute, Focus on the Family, Ignatius Press, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), Renew America, the Traditional Values Coalition, World Net Daily, and so many other organizations, publishers and authors too numerous to mention.

He spent the last year or so investigating how the Religious Right uses their "research" to campaign against gay people. He wondered what might result if he used the same processes and methods of "research" the Religious Right uses to present their "scientific findings" against gays and applied them to straights. He wrote a fairly extensive report in pdf format entitled, "The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing the Myths," playing off similar titles used by the Religious Right supposedly exposing the "homosexual agenda" to subvert the American family, to destroy marriage, to take away the rights of Christians, and bring down Western Civilization.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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