June 2007 Archives

Observing the changes in verbiage

Over the past 20-30 years, the arguments and verbiage used by the anti-homosexual and ex-gay groups have changed dramatically. As I've said before, these groups and ministries keep having to change their arguments and explanations because they all are proven untenable after a while.

It used to be that these groups would present to the world the opportunity for homosexuals to be "healed from homosexuality." Then, it was something like to "be free of homosexual desire." Now, after reading a bit from a recent Focus-on-the-Family Citizenlink e-mail update, it is "ministry to help people who desire to leave homosexual behavior."

Now, the verbiage has changed to focus on those who want to leave a behavior, not healing of or change in orientation. I still say that the Roman Catholic group Courage has been the most honest and forthright of all the ministries.

Who do you say that I am?

I was just reading Brad Drell's blog about the Episcopal priest who now claims, and I have to admit this is hearsay, that she is both Christian and Muslim. An Episcopal priest who is also a practicing Muslim.

A few of the comments pertaining to this particular post are worth mentioning. As someone alluded to, this whole mess we find ourselves is really about who we say Jesus is. Last Sunday's Gospel lesson recounted Jesus asking his disciples, "Who do the people say that I am?" and then, "Who do YOU say that I am." Peter answered, "The Messiah of God!" Funny thing, Jesus told them not to tell anyone.

I do believe that so many of the issues we are dealing with today do revolve around the question of who Jesus is! If Jesus is simply one of many prophets of God, even if a special one, even though not the same kind of one as Muhammad, then being a Muslim and Christian is not all that outlandish. Of course, most Muslims would completely reject the idea because most believe we worship three gods, among numerous other differences between the two religions - perceived or otherwise.

Likewise, the whole issue of "Open Communion" - allowing anyone to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord whether they are baptized or not or even a believer or not or whether they are in the midst of notorious sin or not - pertains to who Jesus is and what actually goes on during the mass. If one believes that the Eucharistic celebration and the receiving of the elements is simply a ritual of remembrance, in the Protestant fashion, rather than truly a Sacrament, in the Catholic fashion, then what difference does it make whether anyone takes communion or not or why they do? If Jesus is not honestly present, by faith, in some way, then they are just pieces of bread and a bit of wine or grape juice. Who do we say Jesus is and what do we say goes on within the liturgies of the Church and its sacraments?

I was reading the final letter to the parish by the interim priest of my sponsoring parish in Ohio. There has been a bit of controversy, it seems, with this interim because he introduced for the experience practices that were consider "Popish" by many in the decidedly low-church parish. In his letter, he commented on reasons and realities of church growth,

"The fourth reason seems new to us, but it really isn’t: a growing number of people are now “church shopping” and they are rarely looking for a church which will challenge them with the Gospel; they’re looking for a church which will affirm their current beliefs and values. And they usually find these two positions incompatible. (This phenomenon is also true in the secular world. Perhaps, you’ve seen recent studies about the growing number of people who, when seeking a new home for their retirement, are looking not just for better weather, but for a community or state where their views, values and politics are in the majority — perhaps, for the first time in their lives.)"

There are, I think, too many people who do not what to be asked the question, "Who do you say that I am?" They don't want to be challenged that their particular belief or their ignorance may be wrong. It is far easier and far less messy and not at all as costly to believe in a new guru Jesus, rather than the eternally existent, resurrected and ascended Son of God through whom we have access to reconciliation with God, one another, and all of God's creation.

Another commenter added this quote from St. Basil as an explanation for why she rarely involves herself in all this wrangling:

“The love of many has grown cold; concord among brothers is no more; the very name of unity is ignored; Christian compassion or sympathetic tears cannot be found anywhere. There is no one to welcome someone weak in faith, but mutual hatred blazes so fiercely among brothers that a neighbors’ fall brings them more joy than their own household’s success. And just as a contagious disease spreads from the sick to the healthy during an epidemic, in these days we have become like everyone else: imitators of evil, carried away by this wicked rivalry possessing our souls. Those who judge the erring are merciless and bitter, while those judging the upright are unfair and hostile. This evil is so firmly rooted in us that we have become more brutish than the beasts: At least they herd together with their own kindred, but we reserve our most savage warfare for the members of our own household.”
St. Basil

A timely quote, don't you think?

As timely today as then

Could there be anything more timely, even if it was written millennia ago?

Wisdom of Solomon 2:1-11

For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
‘Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.
For we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been,
for the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts;
when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.
Our name will be forgotten in time,
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.
For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.


‘Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass us by.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry;
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.
Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
or regard the grey hairs of the aged.
But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

There is truly nothing new under the sun!

The City #13

It is 68 degrees this morning and the humidity is so high (and thick) that I'm sweating! Yuck.

So, I was on the subway going home last night and a new crop of people came into the car. I was sitting and reading and noticed a youngish woman caring a couple things. I looked up and thought, "Is she pregnant?" Well, being the chivalrous person that I am, I would certainly give up my seat to a pregnant woman! I started to get up and she said, "No, I'm not pregnant." Ouch!

I am amazed at the number of Russians in this country (or at least in New York City). I think back and remember growing up in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. I think about the fall of Communism and the rise of the various republics that made up the Soviet Union, and then there is (or was) the East Block, the Iron Curtain, and can't remember what the "alliance" was actually called.

What must these people think? Here they are living and working in their formerly sworn enemies and amongst the capital pigs. Of course, I'm thinking of the truly devoted Marxist/Leninists who still protest in Russian and call for the return of a Communist Russia. The place I get my hair cut is run by Russians, as are a number of other hair cutting places.

I remember stepping into the grand plaza in East Berlin right as the Wall was falling. This was the equivalent to West Berlin's main plaza and there was no comparison. I know of East Berliners who first stepped into West Berlin when the whole in the Wall finally appeared and saw first-hand the vast differences between the two societies. They were shocked to see that the reports of Western prosperity were true, after being told time and again that it was all Western propaganda. They realized their whole system was a lie and their government deceived them from the beginning.

Now, the try to come to the West, even as the Russian rulers are stepping back from democratic systems. Where will it all end, I wonder?

Saltaire, Saturday

Boy, is everything more expensive on the island! I a lot of money on a meal yesterday evening. I walked over to the next town, Kizmit(?), because they actually have a couple restaurants. Actually, there is a deli-grocery story here in Saltaire and the restaurant across the board-walk from the rectory, but it is the Saltiare Yacht Club, and, well, we don't belong.

So, I order a glass of wine in Kizmit before looking at the prices of the dinners. Wow! The cheapest thing is plain pasta for $17.00 bucks. My simple meal was $31.00 plus tip. Now, the wine was cheaper than in New York City, but that ain't sayin' much. Oh well.

Since there is no TV, I fell asleep when the sun went down and promptly woke up when it came up. By 9:00 am, I had already showered, had a cup of coffee on the dock as I read with some Oreos, opened the church and read morning prayer, taken an walk on the beach, gone to the store. It was a productive morning.

While sitting on the dock, I watched a white water bird of some kind fish. He would look intently into the water and, whooosh, drive his head into the water and pull up a tiny fish. I couldn't even see those tiny little fish. One after another he caught fish and ate. Up and down the shore he went. It was nice being able to just watch something like that for an "extended" period of time. I took a nice, long walk along the beach. As my friend Jason (the Barefoot Priest) said, it is a great place to be re-energized!

I'm a bit sunburned. I should be nicely red for mass tomorrow.

St. Andrews by the Sea

I'm off to serve this weekend at St. Andrew's-by-the-Sea - the summer chapel in Saltiare, Fire Island.

Even though is seems like a hassle right now (too much going on), I know that it is a wonderful place and very relaxing. There are no automobiles, no real TV reception, just the ocean, beaches, other summer houses, and two services at the chapel on Sunday.

One of the things that frustrates me most about the politicized Religious Right is their propensity to rewrite history, established norms, even the meaning of the Constitution and our way of governance, to get their way. The theocratic end justifies their means, regardless of whether those means work contrary to the very Gospel message and standards they purport to champion.

The Religious Right political organization Focus-on-the-Family-Action has commented on the Massachusetts' legislature upholding existing law and not allowing for a state-wide referendum vote on whether the state will continue allowing same-sex marriage or not.

Here is the headline from the story appearing in their "Citizen Update" daily e-mail: Massachusetts Lawmakers Silence Voters on Marriage, and graphic that accompanies it.

06-14-07.jpg

"We the People" is realized through our elected representatives in legislatures - this IS our form of government and has been for over two centuries. Our Founding Fathers and our founding documents make clear that we are a "Representative Democracy," not a direct democracy. It is through our elected representatives that the People's will is realized - even if the road to realization is bumpy and messy and slow. If we don't like what our representatives do, we vote them out and vote in people who we think will reflect our desires.

The problem with the Religious Right in these kinds of situations is that they don't have the numbers to elect people who will bend to their will, so they try other tactics to force their will. Their candidates did not win in the last round of elections in Massachusetts!

The Religious Right organizations said first that fascist and unaccountable judges were forcing their liberal agenda on the rest of the country - a judiciary out of control. These evil judges allowed for the killing of defenseless patients (Terri Schiavo case) or forcing gay civil-unions or ordered legislatures to find a way of granting equality under the law. These organizations then attempt to destroy the credibility and the public's perception of impartiality of the judiciary. What will be the end result? Not a people living under the rule of law, but under chaos.

Now, in Massachusetts they are attempting to distort our way of representative and constitutional government because the legislature will not bend to their will.

So much of the rhetoric coming out of the politicized Religious Right slanted, bent, or downright false. They demand that the "people's" will be done - and they claim that the people's will aligns with their agenda, particularly on the homosexual issue. For the moment, that may be true - or they are simply the ones shouting the loudest. When they base the justification of their agenda on the "will of the people," they may well find themselves stranded. The "will of the people" is a fickle and shifting thing - and this is why we have a representative and not a direct democracy. By their rhetoric, they shoot themselves in the proverbial foot in the long run.

The fact is, they will call for the "people's will" to be done only as long as the people's will aligns with their agenda (or they presume they have the majority position). Once the majority of people no longer vote their way, they will stop calling for the "people's will" to be done.

Their goal is not the strengthening of the institutions of civil governance, social peace, or judicial integrity, but the implementation of their agenda. If they cannot succeed in the establishment of their agenda as the rule of the land and culture, they will call for the destruction of the present systems in favor of whatever will see their goals implemented - Theocracy, for example. They will support representative democracy as long as the representatives do their will. They will support the judiciary as long as the judiciary rules in their favor, and if they don't they will denigrate the judiciary and all governmental systems and call for a radical reconstitution of it all into something they find more pleasing. Of course, under our present system, this is their right and I will defend it. However, this is not a right they would grant if they were truly in control (and I know this because I used to be in their midst).

Now, all of us are given the right to petition our government, vote for our representatives, and even work to change our form of government if need be. The issue with the politicized Religious Right is that if they loose in the legislatures or the courts or even the court of public opinion, they will not "play fair" by being a loyal opposition and working to see their people elected during the next election cycle, but they will do whatever it takes to have their way even if it means destroying the very forms of governance that gives them the right to champion their cause in the first place.

Anglican Lite

Well, it seems the drive to establish a new "Anglican" church in the U.S., and perhaps world-wide, is well on its way.

From the U.K. Telegraph:

Anglican coalition to force through breakaway

I titled the post "Anglican Lite" because while they may retain some of the trappings of Anglicanism (i.e. the 1662 BCP, 39 Articles, etc.), they will and have jettison(ed) the ethos and theological perspective that defines historical Anglicanism - comprehensiveness, methods for approaching theology and Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, Reformed-Catholicism, Scripture-Tradition-Reason, etc.

This new church, which will now compete with the Anglican Mission in America (Rwandian) and the Convocation of North American Anglicans (Nigerian), will be yet another quasi-Anglican entity and part of the splintered "Anglican Continuum."

Once division happens, it doesn't end. We see this in Protestantism and as much as we have tried to avoid it in Anglicanism (which is a result of its own separation from Rome, although for very different circumstances), we see the reality. I believe there needed to be a reformation within Roman Catholicism (with Luther attempted, until he was excommunicated). The Continental reformers went too far, I think. The English Reformers were more subtle and right, IMHO.

What will be, will be. The minds of men are made up. Their heart's are set. Their egos gloriously cajoled. The rightness of their cause wondrously firm. God's blessing triumphantly expected. Lord have mercy on our arrogance and pride.

Why do I fall prey, again?

I'm in one of those periods when I don't know whether I'm coming or going. I'm about ready to fall over - job, parish work, and alergies.

I've repeatedly heard that the Church should encourage a "bi-vocational" priesthood as a means of reviving churches that can't afford a priest. Work full-time and revive a parish. They are crazy - can I say it again? Yes! - they are crazy. Crazy, I tell you.

Anyway, for the remainder of this month, I don't see a way out. Then, physically I'm going to pot and spiritually I'm not much better. It becomes hard to quite my mind in order to honestly pray, rather than just rattle off a list of wants or needs (which I'm not even doing very well, either). Hopefully, come September, I can take some time off work and actually recup a bit. I need to start running, again. I need to start working-out, again. I need to discipline myself in prayer and study, again. I need to start managing my time, again. I need to watch the kind of food I eat, again. I need to refocus on relationships, again. Does it ever end? Maybe living in a monastery?

The Tyranny of the Urgent! Why do I so easily fall prey?

Your age by dinner

So, my cousin sent this to me. I normally hate these things - so often said, I know.

It was right. Does it work for everyone? Living in New York, I had to limit my eating out experiences to 10.

YOUR AGE BY DINER & RESTAURANT MATH

It takes less than a minute. Work this out as you read ...

Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!
This is not one of those waste of time things, it's fun.

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would
like to go out to eat. (more than once but less than 10)

2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)

3. Add 5

4. Multiply it by 50

5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1757... If you haven't, add 1756.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born. You should have a three digit number.

The first digit of this was your original number. (I.e., How many times you want to go out to restaurants in a week.)

The next two numbers are

YOUR AGE ! ------ (Oh YES, it is!!!)

THIS IS THE ONLY YEAR (2007) IT WILL EVER WORK, SO SPREAD IT AROUND WHILE IT LASTS

Profoud change and our failing

I'm reading through the lectionary readings for this Sunday (Proper 5). I find in them a theme of profound change - the two sons being raised from the dead - profound change physically. Paul describing his profound spiritual change. Whenever we come into contact with God wantingly and willingly, there will be profound change - that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Within that gentle and often slowing transformation caused by the Holy Spirit, people begin to perceive the transformation (if we allow ourselves to be changed). Some react positively and some react negatively (to some we become the smell of life, to some the smell of death - as Paul describes).

The problem we have in this Church (and the problem infecting American Christianity in general) is that we don't understand God's ways of things. We cop the world's ways and attempt to make them our own. The politics being played out in our Church and Communion these days are straight from the World's playbook, not from God's. We may attempt to justify our politicking, our misrepresentation of the facts - spin, our hatred, our conniving and scheming in holy, godly, or standing-up-for-the-truth kind of language, but our methods and attitudes are the world's. We try to justify to the world (and ourselves) our methods and means of dealing with our differences and pressing issues and concerning how we deal with one another, but the non-Christians and the world look at us and say, "How are you any different than politics in Washington or the hatred of other people we see in so many parts of the world?" They aren't stupid. They see through our self-deception and lies and know that we are hypocrites in our relating to sinners of the world.

They are right. In this case, the world's critique of us is right on target. We act no different than worldlings as they try to get their way, force their political or social perspective upon everyone else, or justify their brutality. This is an attitude and behavior irregardless of political or social persuasion, and we have aquiesed to it rather than being transformed into a different way of being and doing - one in which the world cannot deny that there is something profoundly different than what they commonly see in the world.

Take the reaction and attitudes of the Amish in Pennsylvania when their school was attacked and their children killed. The world took notice and was amazed - this is a profound example of the transformation that the Gospel of Christ should cause within us as we respond and react to situations of life and belief. To act and understand in ways that the world simply cannot understand, but to which they are drawn. Instead, within the Episcopal Church and within much of Christian American, we just play politics and fight and call one another often vile names.

The world is not impressed, because we are just like them. Too bad we are not more like the Amish, who are so much further along in understanding how to love God with everything, love their neighbor, and even love their enemy, at least as demonstrated in the recent tragedy.

New Political Quiz

I took a new "political-economic' survey to find out what I am. Will this ever end? Anyway, it is an interesting website (Neo-Liberatian) and the quiz is the "3-Line Quiz."

I turned out to be a "Liberal-leaning-Capitalist-leaning-Republican" There ya go.

Liberal-Leaning - Those moving in the direction of individual autonomy, critical of government, opposed to sin taxes and moral codes fall in this area. A majority of Americans fall here or in the moderate section.

Capitalist-Leaning - Many Republicans and some Democrats fall here, and support balanced budgets, tax reform, free trade agreements, estate tax repeal, and spend more time talking about the problems of small business than raising the minimum wage. They like to push middle class tax cuts and associate economic success with production, wealth, and especially with high rates of consumerism and ownership.

Republican - This includes a large bulk of modern-day American politicians, whether Republican or Democratic. This includes values of basic racial equality but not necessarily affirmative action. It's a strong rejection of racism and a strong embrace of democracy, but not into the social levelling or hyper-secularism of the democrat level.

via: Dappled Things

Anniversary

I got an e-mail from a friend in Cleveland today. This guy is an organizational wunderkind. The subject line said, "Happy Anniversary," and I thought, "I wonder to whom John is wishing a happy anniversary." Well, it was me.

It is sad when a friend has to remind me that it was one year ago today that I knelt before Bishop Arthur Williams and was ordained priest. I didn't remember.

Well, today is the first year anniversary of my priesting.

Cleveland

My goodness, the Cleveland Cavaliers have done it! They are going to the NBA Finals after besting the Detroit Pistons. (It funny when we have to say "done it" before the championship is decided. For Cleveland fans, simply going to a national final is "done it" enough.)

Now, anyone from around Cleveland will tell you that to root for Cleveland teams is to be a real fan. It seems that they break our hearts every time. This is tough for fans, but Clevelanders (and they are more than just people who live in the City of Cleveland proper!) has this undying sense of being for the underdog. Perhaps it is because of all the negativity that comes our way. (Despite the fact I live in New York, I will always be a Cleveland fan!).

So, now the Cavs are going to the finals for the very first time. I wish them well and pray that this time one of our teams will go all the way, not just to the edge.

I can't watch the games. I know this is really lame, but watching the games at this point in the season is just too stressful. I will start watching, but have to just stop. Pathetic, I know, but that's me. I almost had to be committed when the Indians almost won the World Series.

Cleveland Cavaliers website

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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