May 2007 Archives

Why? Oh, that's why!

Two interesting articles. The first comes from the Washington Post's review of the new book, RELIGIOUS LITERACY: What Every American Needs to Know -- and Doesn't, by Stephen Prothero.

Here are a couple paragraphs from the review:

The United States is the most religious nation in the developed world, if religiosity is measured by belief in all things supernatural -- from God and the Virgin Birth to the humbler workings of angels and demons. Americans are also the most religiously ignorant people in the Western world. Fewer than half of us can identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, and only one third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

"The book's main concern, though, is ignorance about the role of religion in American history. Prothero dates the beginning of the long decline in our religious literacy to the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s. The fervor of America's periodic cycles of revivalism, rooted in a personal relationship with God rather than in theology handed down by learned clergy, has always had a strong anti-intellectual as well as spiritual component."

Read the whole article.

The second is an opinion piece that comes from the Dallas News about a renewed appeal of Tradition in religious observance, particularly among the younger folk. This is one reason why I chose an Anglo-Catholic parish to do my field-placement, and why I am still there as a priest. I need and want to learn due to the fact that I grew up in a religious tradition that did not keep Tradition, but it also appeals to that part of me that longs for the tried-and-true and that which is beyond me. The lived experience of millions upon million of people over 2,000 years and including some of the most brilliant human minds add to the Tradition that still speaks to the inner most part of us - Deep calls to deep. (I preaches a sermon on that, yesterday, Pentecost.) The last paragraph is vitally important when considering Tradition!

Here are a few paragraphs:

"What's the least I have to believe and do to feel good about myself?

That's the fundamental question modern religious seekers seem to be asking. For many contemporary Americans, religion is like a scented candle: The purpose of its light is to provide a comforting psychological ambience. But for a small, growing minority – for whom religion, properly understood, exists to illuminatethe challenging path to truth and holiness – there is an alternative: tradition... "

"Traditionalists of any religion fundamentally differ from modernists in that they see truth as objective and delivered within the rules, rituals and teachings of the tradition. Truth, so considered, is something around which individuals must shape their lives. The modernist sees religious truth as subjective, something that can be shaped to fit the lives of individuals in different times and places. If they're right, there's nothing regressive about reclaiming attractive and useful elements of tradition within a modernist context.

Except that it's a dead-end. Orthodoxy (right belief) cannot be severed from orthopraxy (right practice); both inform and reinforce the other, beholding the truth and embodying it in the rites and pious practices of individuals and communities. The writer and Orthodox convert Frederica Mathewes-Green warns tradition-seekers that the reason the outward manifestations of tradition – the chants, the icons, the liturgies – have such power in our fast-moving, throwaway culture is that their authority is embedded within a living and longstanding communal tradition. If you don't accept the tradition whole, you cut yourself off from its transformative power.

'It's like gathering flowers: They look great when you bring them into your contemporary church, but they have no roots and they're going to die,' she says. 'You'll have to keep going out and getting more flowers. Eventually, the whole thing will feel stale. Unless you plug into the ancient-continuing church and let it form you, you're just being a shopper.'

Modernists nevertheless make a point that traditionalists ignore at their peril. Tradition has to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances without abandoning its core principles. A tradition that loses touch with the needs of the living community is in danger of degenerating into rigid formalism. Some traditionalists make an idol of sacred tradition, as if it were an end in itself, not the most reliable and efficacious means to God."

Read the whole article.

I got this stuff from: SARX

Archade Fire

P.E.T.A.

I was walking through Red Hook on Saturday to a new garden center on the tip of the Island called, Liberty Sunset. Why Liberty Sunset? Because the place has an incredible view of The Statue of Liberty and sunsets, that's why. Anyway, this place is incredible (don't think typical suburban garden center). So, I first walked to my new favorite little cubbyhole restaurant for a bit of brunch (if brunch can be had at 2:00 pm, rather than just having breakfast at 2:00 pm).

Oh wait, it wasn't at the restaurant. Okay, so next I walk to the garden place that is owned by a couple people, one of whom is from Hungary. Since he is from Hungary, his partner told me on their grand-opening, he is really into hospitality. At a certain time on the weekends, they fire up the incredible grill in their amazing kitchen that is part of a huge warehouse room where they have waterfalls and grow lights and photography space and an enormous table in the midst of pots and scattered plant projects that was salvaged from some place, but is a horizontal slice from an ancient Redwood. They have like twenty chairs around this table. Mind you, this isn't the tourist destination kind of disneyfied mega-garden center. This is the place of work of some unique people! So, since the Hungarian co-owner is really into hospitality, they cook up some food and open some bottles of wine and invite anyone shopping or looking around to have a snake (or a meal, depending on how hungry you are). People just grab some stuff (the day I was there it was Hungarian specialties of sausages, and the like). I didn't eat, but thanked the other co-owner when she offered me some food and wine.

That's hospitality!

But, it wasn't at the garden center, either. This building used to be a warehouse. Red Hook is a port area of Brooklyn. The very modern Queen Mary II docks there now whenever it sails into New York City. I can see the smoke stacks from my living room window, and pretty much the whole thing when I'm on the roof. On one of my few runs these days, I ran through Red Hook and down by the dock to see the Queen Mary II in all its glory. (A bunch of us from General saw it sail up the Hudson on its maiden voyage along with a few thousand other people standing along the river at 6:00 am.) Anyway, I ran down by the docks and noticed a ton of police everywhere. I guess to guard against potential terrorist attacks. No problem. Well, until I ran down a deserted road that dead-ended on the bay and gave an incredible view of the front of the ship. I don't think they trusted me. A cop car followed me all the way, sat there while I look at the boat and the Statue of Liberty, and then while I ran away.

Okay, so this garden center is in the warehouse building along with a few other business whose proprietors seem to be equally unique (don't think hippy type, but just industrious, do your own thing, live a good life, hip-cool kind of people who are at stages in their lives where they can afford to do this kind of thing). Around the corner of the building is a Key-lime pie bakery. The most authentic key-lime pies in New York, its truck proclaims. After my breakfast at 2:00 pm, a nice little personal key-lime pie was in order. Refreshing on a hot, sunny day, before buying pots at the garden center. It was here that I saw it.

One of the owners of the garden center, I guess (I think they are all in cahoots with each other) fired up a new waterfall into a huge above ground custom built wooden pool that will be used for marsh plants right outside the door of the pie place; so one of the owners had on a t-shirt that had printed on the back P.E.T.A. I thought, great, it figures that one of this crew was a PETA member. But wait, I read on.

P.E.T.A, for this guy, meant, "People who Eat Tasty Animals!" I had to crack up. The shirt was from some b-b-q place in the South. Eating my little, personal key-lime pie, I thought, "This guy fits in perfectly with a garden center that serves up sausages and wine to his customers." That's the kind of place I would like to work. "People who Eat Tasty Animals." Just too funny.

Coming Out Insurance

Okay, this is bad, but it is really funny, too.

Oh, the fallout!

The ongoing fallout from the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation to next year's Lambeth Conference can be seen:

Titusonenine Note: Kendall has a new website.

Thinking Anglicans (UK)

I am once again involved in an ongoing "discussion" over at Titusonenine with regard to Bishop Gene Robinson's response to not being invited, thus far, to Lambeth.

Read it if you will, and let me know how I can do better.

The Invitations have gone out

Most of the invitations issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the upcome Lambeth Conference in England have been sent. Read the press release from the Anglican Communion News Service.

It seems that Bishop Robinson and Bishop Minns have not been included, although according to the AP, Bishop Robinson may be invited as a quest. Read the AP/New York Times article, here.

We shall see how all involved will react and respond. I don't think it will be pretty. Kind of like the Moscow Olympics! (Hopefully not like the Munich Olympics!)

The Onion News Network

I just discovered the "Onion News Network" through Jason Miller's blog "Discovering the Hope." If you are familiar with "The Onion" newspaper, you'll love this.

Here is an example:


Gap Unveils New 'For Kids By Kids' Clothing Line

The ending portion of a letter from Bishop Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida to his clergy, entitled, What Next?

It is an important message to hear during times of trouble when our tendency is to want resolutions now, because life is too stressful to wait, wait, and to wait some more. Yet, God tends to say to us - "be patient; be still and know that I am the Lord."

Here is a portion of Bishop Howe's letter:


I met with our clergy during Holy Week, and I told them (yet again) that I am committed to remaining both an Episcopalian and an Anglican as long as it is possible to do so. But ultimately, all of us may have to make choices. We will not all make the same choices, and we will not all make them at the same time. What is imperative is how we treat each other.

“By this will everyone know that you are my disciples,” our Lord declared, “if you have love for one another.”

It is not by all the sermons we preach, not by all the books we publish, not by the cathedrals we build, the missionaries we send out, the bold actions we take, or even the purity of our doctrine, but it is by the quality of our relationships with others who name the name of Christ that we will prove we truly belong to him.

We reflected together on what it means to “love one another,” and I suggested we use as a template the great “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, and I shared four reflections with the clergy that I want to repeat today.

1) There is not a single “feelings” word in all of 1 Corinthians 13. The kind of agape love that Jesus calls us to, and that St. Paul attempts to describe, is entirely a matter of attitude and behavior; it is a matter of choice. I don’t have to feel a certain way toward you; I have to behave a certain way toward you. (There are a lot of feelings in eros; there are none in agape.)

2) The “love chapter” is a remarkable description of the Lord Jesus himself. You can actually substitute his name every time Paul uses the word “love.” (“Jesus is patient; Jesus is kind; Jesus is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, endures all things.”) The corollary is that when I run out of my own supply of agape love for you, I can ask Jesus to love you through me!

3) There are sixteen synonyms or synonymous phrases in the chapter, and nine out of the sixteen are negative: Love is NOT envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful; it does NOT insist on its own way or rejoice in wrongdoing, and it never ends. Evidently, then, there are things I need to work on NOT doing toward you.

4) Notice how many of the synonyms are also synonyms for patience (or heavily dependent on it). You cannot be kind without being patient. You cannot bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things, without being patient. By my count at least eight of the sixteen words or phrases are synonymous with patience – which is to say that extending agape love toward someone is at least half a matter of being patient with him or her. The old phrased, “Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me,” is really a plea for an expression of Jesus’ agape love from each other!

I suggested that it is no accident that patience is the first word on the list; it is like getting the top button of your shirt right; if you don’t all the other buttons will be wrong, as well.

So, I say to you, as I said to the clergy: please be patient. Let’s trust the Lord. Let’s see what comes out of the meetings of the “Windsor Bishops” and the House of Bishops. Let’s hear what Archbishop Rowan has to say to us. And if and as we make difficult decisions, sometimes perhaps not in agreement with each other, let us do our very best to comply with our Lord’s instructions.

Jesus shared his Last Supper with the one who would betray him and the others who would desert him, and then he went to the cross for them – and us. And he said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

My love to all of you,

John W. Howe

Scheming Swindlers

"The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly."

~ Soren Kierkegaard

A couple weeks ago, Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) came to Virginia to install his new missionary bishop for "CANA" (Convocation of Anglicans in North America), his new church in the U.S. (or missionary diocese under his jurisdiction). Martin Minns is that new missionary bishop.

So then, CANA has a few parishes under its umbrella throughout the U.S., although primarily, it seems, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia. Since Archbishop Akinola is the Primate of this fledgling new "missionary diocese" or denomination in the U.S. (that is providing a safe-harbor from the evil Episcopal Church), he seems to presume he must speak out on American politics and social issues. For good measure, he throws in some comments about the state of things in the U.K. as well.

I wonder whether he honestly believes that the American and British public is going to pay any attention to his opinions or pronouncements. Maybe it is because we are arrogant imperialists, but I really think he is in for a rude awakening if he things he now has the ability to move American or British political or social policy. Then again, I am beginning to believe that Peter Akinola thinks he has been divinely commissioned by God to restore Christianity (as he understands it) and God's kingdom in the West.

Here are some excerpts from his latest press conference:

Press briefing by Archbishop Peter Akinola on Sunday 13th May at the end of the Abuja Diocesan Synod

Gentlemen of the Press.
We welcome you to this press briefing at the end of our diocesan synod in Abuja

We met to study and discuss the theme “Be ye Holy” 1Peter 1:16. We examined God’s calling upon our lives to be holy and live exemplary lives. You will find in the distributed communiqué, our resolutions on this important issue. Allow me highlight some salient points.

Global Scene
Considering how the world is making it increasingly difficult for Christians to live holy lives, we ask:

WHERE IS THE CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE?
Many people look to the USA as a Christian country and its leaders often assume the role of moral leaders for the world who are ready to point the finger at problems around the globe and yet we must not forget that there is another side to their story. The present generation of Americans would do well to remember their own history. While they and their forebears claim their nation to be a gift from God it is in truth a land forcefully taken with no respect for the human rights of the despised and dispossessed Indians – it is also a land where a great deal of its early economic foundation was built on the sweat and blood of de-humanized African slaves.

Americans seem to have forgotten the same LORD in whom they say “In God we trust”. Deuteronomy 7 and 8 are relevant biblical passages

“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” 8:18a

"Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.” 8: 19

The God who has blessed so abundantly is also a jealous God who requires obedience and holy living. But instead of calling for obedience to the Word of God we now have the situation where those who call for faithfulness in holy matrimony or abstinence outside of it risk being accused of hate speech. The breakdown in marriages in the USA is a scandal. It is causing a massive crisis in their own society and the rest of the world. But instead of admitting the problem and finding creative ways to strengthen traditional families we see a relentless promotion and protection of so called ‘alternative lifestyles.’ Recent legislative bill H.R. 1592 (Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007) passed in the House on May 3rd 2007, and the H.R 2015 (Employment Non-Discrimination Act.) being discussed are worthy of note. God will not be mocked.

We see a similar crisis in the UK. The decline in marriages and the breakdown in families has become an epidemic. But instead of encouraging holy living and strengthening family life we read of a bishop of the Church of England called before tribunal to explain his refusal to hire a certain youth worker. His offence was ‘discrimination’, we were told because the job seeker in this case was a self-confessed homosexual and who said he had just ended a five-year homosexual relationship. Surely the Church has an obligation to promote holy living not apologise for it!

* Where is the Christian voice in all these?
* Why are Church leaders not concerned about this breakdown in society?
* Why are they ashamed of promoting holy living?
* Why have they lost their confidence in the Word of God?

Good essay by Dan Gilliam over at Next-Wave e-zine.

Read it here.

Pentecost is coming, so what exactly is the "Church?"

The more I think about it, hear what people are saying (and I'm more interested in what un-churched people are saying, honestly), the more I read, the more I experience, I think Dan's list is a pretty good summation or at least a good foundation upon which to begin, even though his intent is not to present what the "Church" is.

Holiness

I find myself battling between my upbringing within the tradition of the Holiness Movement and with my current situation within the tradition of Anglo-Catholicism. Both present a very different way of engaging the faith, God, and one another, particularly in how we should live out our lives as Christians.

"Be holy, even as I am holy," as Jesus said. Yes, but we too often fall into a kind of "perfectionism" that works against our natures as beings that always fall short of the glory of God. That is just how things are, yet not excusing immorality or unholy actions.

As a result, too many of us descend into a "shame spiral" (remember that?) that contributes to unreasonable demands of ourselves and more tragically of others. We expect ever more stringent and demanding proof of our devotion to God exhibited through our actions. (This is the pattern of the politicized Religious Right and fundamentalism) We become Pharisees. Then, we tend to really become Pharisaical - condemning, hypocritical, unrealistic, mean, angry, bitter, seeing the speck in everyone else's eyes but not the tree trunk in our own, and then trying to demean and squash those who disagree with us.

If course, the other extreme is an attitude that is morally and ethically laissez-faire and a demand that there is really no such thing as sin, no real need for repentance, no need for holiness, and that we are all really good and virtuous by nature.

I want to live into the understanding that we are called by God to be moral and ethical - to love mercy, to do justly, and to walk humbly with our Lord. We are called to be holy. Yet, we all fail again and again and this is our plight. We don't wallow in it, but we also to not deny the reality of it.

So, give people a break! Be at peace and encourage and cajole and support all to seek God and God's will, call all to holiness, but allow the judgmentalism to end and let the responsibility of judgment remain with the only one who is justified in judging.

Open or Free?

Is there a difference in being:

1. Open-minded

or

2. Free-minded

The Triad Of Anglicanism

Tobias Haller, priest, Rector, brother (BSG), writes in his blog, In a Godward Direction, about a few distinctives of Anglicanism.

The entire essay is well worth reading, and is entitled, "The Anglican Triad"

Here are a couple paragraphs that I particularly likes:

For shorthand I will call these three elements Humility, Provinciality, and Variety. They stand in the via media between Humiliation, Provincialism, and Chaos at one extreme, and Pride, Centralism and Uniformity at the other. All three are well attested in foundational documents of Anglicanism (The Articles of Religion, the Prefaces to the English and American Books of Common Prayer) and in the work of those who first focused the Anglican vision, such as Richard Hooker. I’ll limit my citations here to the Articles themselves, by number.

Under "Humility," he write:
Anglicanism thus humbly rejects concepts of inerrancy and infallibility; even the Scripture itself is “sufficient” for the end for which it was intended: salvation (6). Human understanding, even of the Scripture, is fallible, and subject to a constant review as the church bears its responsibility as the “keeper of Holy Writ.” (19)

A couple things

From the Guardian Unlimited (UK), this commentary by Andrew Brown entitled, "The end of communion," concerning the Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola's installation of a Nigerian "missionary Bishop" in Virginia this past week. An interesting read, but from a particular point of view:

For most of the past four years, almost all the energies of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, have been devoted to holding the Anglican communion together in the face of the American civil war. Make no mistake - the supposed worldwide row over homosexuality would never have happened without conservative American money and energy.

and this

The rest of the churches which once constituted the Anglican communion will now have to choose whether they want to belong to any international body at all, and if so, who will head it. Here it seems that Dr Williams may have played a subtle game, because Dr Akinola's ambition has repelled a great many of his potential supporters.

The Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz:
Of course, this quiz is a bit biased, but bias does not negate truth, at least in most circumstances.

Anglican-Episcopal Literacy Quiz on The Episcopal Majority.

Via: Father Jake Stops the World

Why Liturgy?

Coming from an American-Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic background as I have, the idea that a "liturgy" can really add much at all to the life of a true Christian is pretty anathema. Dead ritural or tradition that takes the place of a true experience of God, which must be "real" in the moment and from the heart - as if a liturgical expression excludes such a thing.

After a good number of years of being in a liturgical church, and particularly the past four years of being in a very liturgical church (Anglo-Catholic of the progressive kind), I am still learning the power and the prose of life within liturgy.

I like the way Rev Sam from Mersea Island, Essex, GB, on his blog Elizaphanian puts it (and this is only a small part of his complete post):

Why liturgy?

So that I can learn how to speak; and pray; and praise.

So that the centre of gravity does not lie in my own feelings and vocabulary but in the expression of the church.

It is not important how I feel when I say 'Glory be to the Father...'; nor is it important how wholeheartedly I believe what I say. It is a question of obedience - feelings and thought will ebb and flow in my life, but the persistence of discipleship is primarily manifested through obedience.

Liturgy assumes a) that I don't yet know all that I need to know about Christianity, and b) that the church has learnt some of what it needs to know about Christianity. Liturgy is how that learning is passed on, and developed.

Liturgy is mystery.

Via: Transfiguration Community

The Fragrance of Life

"You have ravished my heart,
my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart
with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.

"How sweet is your love,
my sister, my bride!
how much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!"
(Song of Songs 4:9-10)

Oh, to be the beloved. Oh, to receive all that our Lord longs to bestow upon us, His Bride. To have but only a taste of that deep, unfathomable love He makes ready for us, His Beloved. What joy, what rapture, what such unknowing. I can scarcely understand. I can hardly comprehend. I can barely, barely but for a moment - I am overwhelmed.

It isn't possible, this love, this joy, this peace the Lover of my soul makes known to me. It is hardly possible that this love is freely given - You have ravished my heart, and I cannot endure it. My soul cannot withstand such love, but with only a glance am I devastated.

Oh, is it possible? How is such love possible? The fragrance of Life to the Full.

Puppetji

The future of swami-ism! The great one! Such wisdom! The progenitor of true, original thought!

Okay, so, you will need to overlook the f-bombs in the beginning, if you can.

Puppetji vs MySpace vs YouTube

Puppetji vs The Secret

Via: Jon at The Wild Things of God

Horses and horse people

I just got back this evening from the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championships in Massachusetts. It was a nice drive; well, as nice as it can be driving in and out of New York City. Spring is in the air (cue music). Ashton competed once again in the alumni division (alumnus of Virginia Intermont College), and one of his students from Princeton made it to the finals. They both did a great job, although neither won their divisions. The IHSA includes both Western and English (and by now I actually know what that means!).

I find it refreshing (familiar, satisfying) to re-enter collegiate environments. I miss it, a lot! It is where I want to be. Most of the student competitors are in their final weeks of classes and exam-weeks. I certainly respect their dedication and admire their determination and discipline.

This is a strange sport. Men and women compete against one another. It is very refined, but not at all precious. The horse world is a world in and of itself. They are people who love to compete, but they compete in a very mannered and sane way. And, well, they talk about horses all the time. All the time...

For the most part, it is a great, solid, grounded bunch of students, coaches, and people who just love the sport. The funny thing is that the stereotypic image of students that come from the backgrounds most of them come from does not match their dispositions. Most competitors come from money and privilege, with notable exceptions. They almost have to.

It is good for me to get out of my "world," which, frankly, is just as obscure and quirky. More so, really. Frankly, I wish some of the people in my "world" were as solid and grounded and well disciplined as those in the IHSA world.

Update: This morning, another thought struck me concerning why these kinds of events feel so good. With the students, coaches, parents, and just interested people, all of us can't help but be connected to that which is real - dirt/soil, animals, those things that at a foundational level connect us back to the earth, to creation. Despite how wealthy one may be, one can't help but get dirty, can't get beyond the smells. We can't help but be connected to God's glorious creation.

Living in the kind of city I do, it is very easy to be disconnected with the earth, the rhythms of the world, the seasons, living things.

What is going on?

Since high school, I have claimed to be a "Progressive-Conservative." Working in academe for all my adult life (until now), claiming to be anything with the word "conservative" in it is not a good career advancement move, but hey, I'm a rebel (!). Working within The Episcopal Church and referring to oneself as some sort of "conservative" can be a form of ecclesial suicide, too.

American "conservatism" (political, social, economic, or religious) is a very different animal than it was 20 odd years ago when I was an idealistic high schooler. I was a political and international-affairs geek, you bet ya. (As I've mentioned before, during my senior year I was voted most likely to become president.) Conservatism today, in its more popular and public form, is of a different nature, particularly as it is expressed through the Republican Party and this administration. (In my humble opinion, the Bush administration is not at all "Conservative." I don't know what it is, aside from the "neo-conservative" label often applied to it.)

Why is the world experiencing such a relatively swift move to "conservatism?"

Western-Rational-Liberalism (not that individually “Western,” “Rational,” or “Liberal” are to be understood pejoratively) in its drive to remake the world and all institutions and with its underpinning in the Enlightenment idea that history will realize the continual forward movement of humanity as it evolves for the benefit of maximizing human fulfillment, is coming to an end. Modernism vs. Post-modernism. Even during its zenith in the West, it ended up being not much more than "managerialism," and not done very well at that. (That term comes from Andrew Sullivan's book, "The Conservative Soul," which I'm reading right now.) This idea of rational-liberalism had a wide berth - seen in Johnson's Great Society, the democratic-socialists states of Western Europe, and in Stalinist and Maoist Communism in the USSR and China. It expressed itself, too, in the theologies of the Liberation and Social Gospels, and in "Death of God" and Process Theism. In the United States, the full results of the building societal shift to this way of thinking burst forth most profoundly in the reactionary and revolutionary Baby-Boomer generation of the 1960's.

Society change was needed legitimately needed during that time. Change still needs to happen, but that generation was determined to bring about the change it deemed necessary. Much good was done, but one of the more negative results occurred in the negative over-reaction to the past and to tradition. There was an obsessive drive to usher in the Age of Aquarius and remake all things in this new image. We are still living with the consequences and still living through the push for such change by those in power who cannot realize that the 1960's are over and the Age of Aquarius never materialized.

Change in and of itself isn't the issue. Change is always with us. Uncritical change is the problem – unrelenting change for changes sake. The issue is whether the change being called for or realized is honestly beneficial for the society and for the individual or not. There has been a lot of "throwing out the baby with the bathwater." A common accusation made by the younger generations towards their parents and grandparents. Remember, the beginnings of Gen-X are now in their mid-40's. Those that make up Gen-Y have been graduating from college for a few years now.

What has resulted from the often uncritical change occurring over the last 30 years and on such a massive and all pervasive scale is chaos. Forms of chaos are now the norm in education, in economics, in international affairs, in trade, in war, in perceptions of the common good or cohesive cultural glue, in morality, in politics, in religion, in every aspect of life. When chaos rules and when there is little sense of common connections that give identity and the assurance that what one is doing matters and is able to survive and contributes to something good, when all this is missing then the human tendency is to move to "conserve" at least what is perceived to be left of that which gave meaning, identity, and assurity.

We are in a state of chaos, and as a human reaction we have moved more diligently and deliberately and far more swiftly towards "conservatism." But, towards what kind of conservatism are we moving?

Due to the long march against "conservatism" over the last 30 years by those who claim the "liberal" label, but are really only "anti-conservatives," what has developed is a form of "conservatism" that no longer represents its best philosophical ideals, but a fundamentalist form of "conservatism" fuelled by angry zeal and a determination for revenge. The label "conservative" is still used, but it has morphed into something different, something more radical, something more determined, something more totalitarian that belies what traditional, philosophical Conservatism actually stands for.

As a result of the inherent deficiencies of Western-Rational-Liberalism, "anti-liberals," who opened up the table to anyone and everyone except conservatives (even serious and thoughtful ones), are now falling pry to the fruits of their labor. The marginalization and demonization of reasonable, thoughtful conservatives (particularly in academe) has enabled a "conservative" backlash to occur that is far more extreme then anything that existed before. We are in the midst of the backlash and are experiencing the results in politics, economics, and religion; we see it expressed in the American culture-wars, the increasingly fundamentalist turning of the Religious Right and American Evangelicalism, the angry polarization and developing schism in world-wide Anglicanism, and the list goes on and on.

There are positive signs that mitigating forces are afoot, and I can only hope that they will come into ascendancy and keep the extremes from their ultimate triumph - collapse as proof of the evil of the other. I still refer to myself as a "Progressive-Conservative," and hope that I can live up to the best ideals held within what may seem to be contradictory concepts.

Remember what I was saying about younger people and religions/spirituality. Here is an article from today's New York Times entitled, "Matters of Faith Find a New Prominence on Campus."

A Terrible Temptation

John Chrysostom commenting on I Timothy 3:1 - A Terrible Temptation

"The first of all qualities that a priest or bishop ought to posses is that he must purify his soul entirely of ambition for the office... The right course, I think, is to have so reverent an estimation of the office as to avoid its responsibilities from the start... But if anyone should cling to a position for which he is not fit, he deprives himself of all pardon and provokes God's anger the more by providing a second and more serious offense... It is indeed a terrible temptation to covet this honor. And in saying this, I do not contradict St. Paul but entirely agree with what he says. What are his words? 'If a man seeks the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.' What is terrible is to desire the absolute authority and power of the bishop but not the work itself."
(On the Priesthood, 3.10-11)

Jerome commenting on I Timothy 3:1 - Ambition for Those Taking Orders

"Should the entreaties of your brethren induce you to take orders, I shall rejoice that you are lifted up and fer lest you may be cast down. You will say, 'if a mad desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work.' I know that; but you should add what follows: such a one 'must be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, chaste, prudent, well-prepared, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker but patient.'... Woe to the man who goes in to the supper without a wedding garment."
(Letters, 14.8)

Chrysostom commenting on I Timothy 1:2a - Do Not Desire an Office If Your Actions Disqualify You

"Blameless: every virtue is implied in this word. If anyone is sconscious to himself of any sins, he does not well to desire an office for which his own actions have disqualified him... For why did no one say of the apostles that they were fornicators, unclean or covetous persons, but that they were deceivers, which relates to their preaching only? Must it not be that their lives were irreproachable? This is clear.
(Homilies on I Timothy 10

Theodore of Moppsuestia commenting on I Timothy 1:2a - Not Without Critics

" 'WIthout reproach' can scarcely mean 'without critics,' since Paul himself had such, but blameless as to living."
(Commentary on I Timothy)

Gregory of Nyssa commenting on I Timothy 1:2a - The Analogy of the Metalsmith

"When making a vessel of iron, we entrust the task not to those who know nothing about the matter but to those who are acquainted with the art of the smith. Ought we not, therefore, to entrust souls to him who is well-skilled to soften them by the fervent heat of the Holy Spirit and who by the impress of rational implements may fashion each one of you to be a chosen and useful vessel? It is thus that the inspired apostle bids us to take thought, in his epistle to Timothy, laying injunction upon all who hear, when he says that a bishop must be without reproach. Is this all that the apostle cares for, that he who is advanced to the priesthood should be irreproachable? And what is so great an advantage as that all possible qualifications should be included in one? But he knows full well that the subject is molded by the character of his superior and that the upright walk of the guide becomes that of his followers too. For what the Master is, such does he make the disciples to be."
(Letters 13)

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, Vol. IX; Peter Gorday editor, 168-170.

UPDATE: Jim McGreevey, former governor of New Jersey and "American gay," is to begin seminary this fall (at my seminary) and is in the discernment process through the Episcopal Diocese of New York, for Holy Orders. Why? Maybe in time, but now? He has too much to work through concerning the profound life changes he has gone through over the past two years (and coming to terms with his own failings). What is going on?

The Fear of Silence

Here is a good essay from the Alban Institute, entitled "Experiencing Silence" - part of which deals with the fear of silence.

Reading through the paragraphs that deal with the fear of silence, I think it sounds very "feminine." That's fine with me, by the way. But my question is this:

Do men react differently to silence, particularly when fear (uncomfortableness) is involved and even when the causes for the uncomfortable feelings are the same between men and women?

(Yes, I know that men and women can have the exact same feelings and reactions, positive and negative, but I'm wondering about the differences and whether the differences are actual or only a result of perception or socialization. And yes, I know that nature and nurture are always involved in our behavioral development and sense-of-self.)

For years, I've said to more feminist friends of mine that they need to demand that men respect and esteem the "women's way of knowing" (to barrow a phrase from Carol Gilligan or here or for a critique here) or the "feminine" qualities that are different than men's but have been diminished by men for centuries. I've said that women should not feel as if they have to take on the more negative qualities of masculinity in order to be equal to men, which I think is what happened in the early stages of the 1960-70's feminist movement. Nor do I think that men need to become more "feminine" in order to show respect for women.

I've also resisted the notion that men and women are really the same, except for our socialization - the idea that perceived differences between the sexes (aside from obviously physical ones) are only a result of culture and our socialization. There are more substantive differences, IMHO, and attempting to demand we are the same is counterproductive to true understanding and true equal consideration of the strengthens and the weakness of maleness and femaleness (or masculinity and femininity or men and women).

So, whether through nurture or nature (but I wonder more about nature), do men deal with silence differently than women? Do men deal different with the fear of or uncomfortableness around silence than women even if the causes are the same?

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