May 2008 Archives

Do we heed history's lessons?

It is said that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it. I have argued numerous times that we can look back in our history and find situations very similiar to what we are now experiencing concerning the cultural and religious changes we are fighting through in the Culture Wars, primarily over homosexuality and by extention same-sex marriage.

I have been told numerous times that the social and religious experiences of Americans leading up to the Civil War over the slavery issue is not a valid comparison to what we are now experiencing in the Culture War over homosexuality. I've said again and again that I am not comparing homosexuality to race or same-sex marriage to the emancipation of the slaves, but rather the way Christian Americans used and interpreted Scripture, demanded that and then fought over narrow and often sectarian application of Scripture, and how we dealt with one another and our differences. The religious dynamic over slavery back then is, in fact, very, very similiar to today.

So, now I am reading histories of the time period. Here is a rather lengthy quote from my current read, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, by Mark A. Noll.

Does this not sound so very familiar as our country, and more specifically our Anglican church, is pulling itself apart?

The Bible, or so a host of ministers affirmed, was clear as a bell about slavery.

The Bible, for example, was clear to Henry Ward Beecher, the North's most renowned preacher, when he addressed his Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn, NY, on January 4, 1861, a day of national fasting to have people pray for the country's healing. In Beecher's view, the evil for which the U.S. as a nation most desperately needed to repent, "the most alarming and most fertile cause of national sin, " was slavery. About this great evil the Bible could not speak with less ambiguity: "Where the Bible has been in the household, and read in the household, and read without hindrance by parents and children together - there you have had an indomitable yeomanry, as state that would not have a tyrant on the throne, a government that would not have a slave or a serf in the field." (1)

But of course, the Bible spoke very differently to others who also rose to preach in that fateful moment. Six weeks earlier... the South's most respected minister, James Henley Thornwell, took up before his Presbyterian congregation in Columbia [South Carolina] the very same theme of "our national sins"... To Thornwell, slavery was the "good and merciful" way of organizing "labor which Providence has given us." About the propriety of this system in the eyes of God, Thornwell was so confident that, like Beecher, he did not engage in any actual Biblical exegesis; rather, he simply asserted: "That the relation betwixt the slave and his master is not inconsistent with the word of God, we have long since settled... We cherish the institution not from avarice, but from principle." (2)

The fact that Beecher in the North and Thornwell in the South found contrasting messages in Scripture by no means indicates the depth of theological crisis occasioned by this clash of interpretations. Since the dawn of time, warring combatants have regularly reached for whatever religious support they could find to nerve their own side for battle. Especially in our postmodern age, we think we know all about the way that interests dictate interpretations. It was, therefore, a more convincing indication of profound theological crisis when entirely within the North ministers battle each other on the interpretation of the Bible. In contrast to the struggle between Northern theologians and Southern theologians, this clash pitted against each other ministers who agreed about the necessity of preserving the Union and who also agreed that the Bible represented authoritative, truth-telling revelation from God.

Thus only a month before Beecher preached to the Brooklyn Congregationalists about the monstrous sinfulness of slavery, the Reverend Henry Van Dyke expounded on the related theme to his congregation, Brooklyn's First Presbyterian Church, just down the street from Beecher's... But when Van Dyke took up the theme of the "character and influence of abolitionism," his conclusions were anything but similar to Beecher's. To this Northern Presbyterian, it was obvious that the "tree of Abolitionism is evil, and only evil - root and branch, flower and leaf, and fruit; that it springs from, and is nourished by, an utter rejection of the Scriptures." (3)

An even more interesting contrast with Beecher's confident enlistment of the Bible against slavery offered by Rabbi Morris J. Raphall, who on the same day of national fasting that provided Beecher the occasion for his sermon, addressed the Jewish synagogue of New York. Like Van dyke's, his sermon directly contradicted what Beecher had claimed. Raphall's subject was the biblical view of slavery. To the learned rabbi, it was imperative that issues of ultimate significance be adjudicated by "the highest Law of all," which was "the revealed Law and Word of God." ...Raphall's sermon was filled with close exegesis of many passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Significantly, this Northern rabbi was convinced that the passages he cited taught beyond cavil that the curse pronounced by Noah in Genesis 9 on his son Ham had consigned "fetish-serving benighted Africa" to everlasting servitude. Raphall was also sure that a myriad of biblical texts demonstrated as clearly as demonstration could make that slavery was a legitimate social system... Raphall's conclusion about the scriptural legitimacy of slavery per se reflected his exasperation at anyone who could read the Bible in any other way: "Is slaveholding condemned as a sin in sacred Scripture?... How this question can at all arise in the mind of any man that has received a religious education, and is acquainted with the history of the Bible, is a phenomenon I cannot explain to myself." (5)

One of the many Northerners with good religious education who know the Bible very well, yet in whose mind questions did not arise about the intrinsic evil of slaveholding, was Tayler Lewis, a Dutch Reformed layman... a professor of Greek and oriental studies... Professor Lewis complained that "there is... something in the more interior spirit of those [biblical] texts that [Van Dyke] does not see; he does not take the apostles' standpoint; he does not take into view the vastly changed condition of the world; he does not seem to consider that whilst truth is fixed,... its application to distant ages, and differing circumstances, is so varying continually that a wrong direction given to the more truthful exegesis may convert it into the more malignant falsehood."(7)

So it went into April 1861 and well beyond. The political standoff that led to war was matched by an interpretive standoff. No common meaning could be discovered in the Bible, which almost everyone in the United States professed to honor and which was, without a rival, the most widely read text of any kind in the whole country.

Mark A. Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 2-4.

Are we condemn to repeat our past mistakes? It seems so, at least concerning this issue of homosexuality and how we handle Scripture, its application, and how we deal with one another. I've heard people say that we truly are in a national and cultural state so similar to the leading up to the Civil War that the possibility of yet another large scale civil conflict coming out of the Culture Wars (Red and Blue states mentality) could well come to pass.

------------------
1.) Henry Ward Beecher, "Peace Be Still," in Fast Day Sermons; or, The Pulpit on the State of the Country (New York: Rudd and Carleton, 1861), 276, 289.
2.) James Henley Thornwell, "Our National Sins," in Fast Day Sermons,48, 44-[??]
3.) Henry Van Dyke, "The Character and Influence of Abolitionism," in Fast Day Sermons, 137.
5.) M.J. Raphall, "Bible View of Slavery," in Fast Day Sermons, 235-236.
7.)Tayler Lewis, "Patriarchal and Jewish Servitude No Argument for American Slavery," in Fast Day Sermons, 180, 222.

Social networking democracy

For those who may not know, India is the largest and most democratic country in the world. Their form of democracy is actually more purely a democracy that ours, which is in the form of a representative-democracy. Perhaps, technology is changing the way our democratic systems will work - nationally something more akin to our State referendum system (direct-democracy) than the way national politics has been conducted in the past.

So, Andrew Sullivan in this past weekend's edition of the Sunday Times (U.K.) writes an article on social networking websites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and their effect on this campaign season and the Obama campaign's extraordinary leveraging of this medium that Sullivan suggests will change campaigning for here-on-out.

A couple quick quotes:

It’s a new form of politics; it is likely to last beyond the Obama campaign and to change the shape of all campaigns to come. For Obama the new method was also bang on message. His liberalism is not a top-down, managerial variety; it’s more in line with progressive traditions of self-empowerment. A social network was the perfect medium...

Maybe Obama’s model is a little before its time. If not, the online president of social-networking democracy is imminent.

Changing demographics

Here is another article concerning the changing demographics of church attendance and the change in what many people are looking for in their church experience reported in the Christian Post.

Study: Americans Not All Flocking to Bigger, Contemporary Churches

The study was conducted by Ellison Research. Here is Ellison's overview of the results.'

Thanks, Cori!

A couple quotes from Ellison's report:

When people switch where they worship, that switch usually includes some change in worship style. Just 35% believe their new place of worship has a worship style that is similar to their last location, while 29% say it has a more contemporary worship style, and 36% moved to a more traditional style of worship.

Among Protestants who switched churches, 31% have noticed a more contemporary worship style, 42% believe it’s more traditional, and just 28% feel it’s about the same as their last church. But even many Catholics feel their new parish has a worship style that differs from their old one – 24% feel it’s more contemporary, 22% feel it’s more traditional, and 54% haven’t noticed any real difference.

Most also go to a place of worship that is a different size than their former one. Just 11% switch to someplace that is about the same size (within 10% plus or minus) of the place they left. But there is no consistent preference for larger or smaller congregations.


and
Theologically, 53% of adults who have changed where they worship say their new place of worship is about the same as their old one. Twenty-eight percent moved to a place they feel is more theologically conservative, including 12% who say it is much more conservative, while 19% moved to one that is more theologically liberal (including 7% who feel it is much more liberal). Protestants are much more likely to notice a difference theologically between their old church and their new one (52%), while Catholics largely see consistency (just 25% note a theological difference).

When they switch, many people find someplace to worship that is closer to home. Just 32% say their current place of worship is about the same distance from their home as the old one, and 25% are now traveling farther to worship, while 44% report their new place of worship is closer to home (including 22% who say it is much closer to home). The findings are similar for Catholics and Protestants.

Developmental Levels

I was reading an article in the New York Times yesterday morning. I can't remember the title of the article, but the reporter at one point was writing about college graduates. The reporter made reference to the developmental age/state of young adults. He said that today's 22 year olds are at the developmental stage of 17 years olds of 1980.

In the 1990's, when I was still working in higher education and student development, we had a term to describe traditional aged college students (18-21). We referred to them as "PAPAs" - "Post-adolescent-Pre-adults." We saw then that the maturity level, the responsibility level, and even the ability of students in this age group to make decisions was not all that high, collectively.

I've read the outcomes of various studies and reports over the years, so this comparison of 17 year olds from 1980 and 22 year olds from today does not shock me, surprise me - yes, but shock me - no. Too many young people today do not have to take care of or responsibility for themselves during their teen-age years and too many are moving back to their parents' home after college graduation, where most fall right back into their old pre-college routine. Mom and dad does everything. Of course this is all by degree and of course there are very responsible and mature young adults, but the trend is not in that direction.

One of my favorite stories took place not too long after I started working for Kent State. I was part of the program that brought all new and prostective students to Kent for a day of class scheduling, testing, and orientation. Parents were encouraged to come, too, but we tried to make sure that students had time with academic counselors by themselves (which some irate parents would not stand for). I got a phone call one day from a woman and she asked, "Where are your hook-ups?" (Which, nowadays means something very different than what this mother was referring to back then.) Perplexed, I asked, "Where are our what?" "Your hook-ups. You know, for RV's," she said. I thought that she were asking because rather than paying to stay in a hotel, they were going to come to the day long program and stay in a RV. I told her that Kent didn't have RV hook-ups on campus. She was a bit miffed, because she said that during the first few weeks of orientation and classes that she had to be close by her son so that she could make sure he woke up on time every morning and stuff like that. After a long pause, I said, "I'm sorry we don't have RV hook-ups, but when your son arrives he really needs to start taking responsibly for himself."

She wasn't happy, and I supposed she may have told her son that he wasn't going to Kent. I wonder whether he did come or whether his mother found a college that would accommodate the smothering of her son. I felt sorry for him, and for all the other students whose parents were determined to run their lives, even from afar.

We do our teens and young people no service when we as parents and educators do not expect them to grow up, take responsibility for themselves, and learn to function independently. Today's 22 year olds are at the developmental level of the 17 year olds of 1980. Is our culture really advancing these days?

(I've been turned down for two college chaplaincy positions over the past three weeks. Maybe my expectations of students - and I've done student work for 20 years - is just a little too high, nowadays. Are today's 17 years olds at a developmental level of the 12 year olds of 1980?)

Squashed Philosophers

Really open or rather flippant

These are just thoughts. I attended a memorial service/Eucharist yesterday. A non-Episcopalian asked about receiving communion, and I said that the Church teaches that all are welcome at the alter - non-baptized for a blessing and all baptized to receive the bread and wine. This is not on the politically-correct, popular side of things right now in this Church according to some who have been whelmed by "Open Communion." (Sorry, but I've never been a part of the in-crowd that gives into "The Man" of political-correctness. I've seen too much and experienced too much hypocrisy in the academy and the Church to be there.)

Anyway, I well understand the desire to radically welcome people. Who doesn't? Well, some don't, I know. One of the first things people tell us when they come to St. Paul's is how welcoming we are, yet communion is reserved for the baptized as the Canons stipulate and the Tradition teaches. If I go to a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Jewish ceremony, I certainly do not expect to be considered just like those who have given themselves wholly to their faith and then ushered into or given their most sacred things. I'm a grown up. I understand things like that, and I respect them for it. I very much appreciate when they explain things to me and I can see in them the excitement or joy that their faith brings them. I am suspicious, however, if I am brought into or given such sacred things and wonder whether they really take their own sacred things very seriously. That's just me.

Continuing on, here is what came to mind after yesterday's service. I've been hearing and reading a lot about persecuted Christians and Anglicans around the world. Christians are still martyred for their faith in various parts of the world. They are still jailed, beaten, enslaved, deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To say that just anyone can come up and participate in one of the most significant and sacred activities the Church provides - reception of the very body and blood of our Lord - whether they understand what they are doing or not, take it seriously or not, or whether they may be a "notorious sinner" or not is an affront to those who die for being part of such a ritual.

What must those Christians think who have to clandestinely gather together in fear of persecution, who have to take the body and blood of our Lord in secret for fear or reprisal, who dare to own and read Bibles late at night when perhaps no one will notice, or if they confess they believe in Jesus they are disowned at best and killed at worst, what must they think when we "open-minded and liberated Westerners" haphazardly give the most precious and solemn part of the faith to anyone regardless of whether they believe, whether they have examined themselves, all in the name of not making someone FEEL BAD.

This is not "welcoming." It is pandering. It is about a therapeutic "feel-goodism" that has overwhelmed all other considerations. What if Scripture is true when Paul tells us to examine ourselves before coming to the table, lest we heap condemnation upon ourselves? What if it is right interpretation when we are told to leave our offering aside while we go and reconcile with our neighbor before coming to the table? With "open communion," one who is unknown to the communion and is full of hate and has little intention of reconciliation can come and take the same body and blood as the person who will die for taking the same . Are we really this self-centered as a nation, as a people, and as a Church? Are we really more concerned about someone perhaps feeling bad than whether they may be heaping condemnation upon themselves for doing something so lightly? We have become juveniles.

I've knowingly given communion to the unbaptized for pastoral reasons. I knew them, came to find our they weren't baptized after the fact, sat down and explained what they were taking upon themselves when they received, and that they should consider baptized. I continued giving them communion during the process, but soon they decided on their own to come to the alter and cross their arms to receive a blessing rather than the body and blood of our Lord. They decided that they wanted to pursue baptism, seriously. And when they received once again after their baptism, they talked about the different and tremendous significance it held for them.

We Americans have lost perspective in so many aspects of life and culture. I think this is due to our cultural isolationism and arrogance, our profound lack of knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world, our never really learning or caring about history, and our hyper-individualistic selfishness. They are right, those that pity us because of our deficient experience and understanding of the God and His provision! They have a right to be angry and disappointed with us because we are so flippant with our Holy sacraments and rites, after they are persecuted and killed for the same which they hold to be so precious.

Airline tactics

As I was waking up this morning, I listened to NPR news and they reported that American Airlines was now going to charge $15.00 to check a single piece of luggage. This makes a difference because I am trying to find a flight for my nephew to come and visit me this summer. According to the report, AA is adding the surcharge due to the cost of fuel. Market forces will make it so they have to raise prices, but...

I understand why the airlines don't simply raise the base price of their tickets - after all, when using Travelocity, Orbits, etc., most people look for the lowest price rather than the final price. Yet, at some point the add-on charges will get ridiculous.

So, here is what I think a "bill" for an airline ticket will look like next year:

Cleveland to New York on a big airline:

Ticket Price: $300.00 (Okay, decent price!)
Fuel fee: $20.00 (to cover the increased cost)
Luggage fee: $15.00 per piece of checked luggage
Carry-on fee: $10.00 per additional carry-on luggage after the first piece
Walk-on fee: $5.00 (after all, all those feet walking wear out the carpet)
Pilot fee: $15.00 (unions, you know)
Stewart fee: $ 5.00 (see above)
Poundage fee: $2.00 (for every pound a passenger is over 200 pounds - additional thrust needed for take-off, more fuel needed, etc.)
Convenience fee: $10.00 (it's a lot more convenient flying than driving, or an airline fee to pay for the inconvenience of having to deal with passengers)
Safety fee: $10.00 (having the stewards read the escape plan and a seat cushion life-preserver provided in case of a crash)
Insurance fee: $25.00 (to cover the cost of having to defend themselves when passengers sue the airline.)
Inspection fee: $20.00 (making sure there are no wire short circuits or fuselage cracks costs a lot of money - unions, again, and the pesky government)

The final airline price is: $445.00 (Doesn't $300.00 look so much better when trying to find a cheap flight?)

Oops, I forgot Food & Beverage fee: $5.00 drinks; $15.00 booze; $3.00 peanuts; $20.00 meal. (Paid by cash only on the plane.)
Add to that, a fee for a headset if you want to watch movies or listen to music: $10.00 (and you even have to turn it in at the end of the flight, else you can't get off the plane! There could be an exit fee somewhere in the future, too.)

Pillows and blankets are still for free! For now...

Of course, then one must add the airport fees, landing right fees, city, county, state, and federal taxes.

Aradhna: amrit vani

Aradhna

"Singing Christian worship songs in the Hindi language for an American evangelical audience can't be an easy sell. Not only is there a formidable language barrier, but cultural and theological challenges abound—like working within the Indian classical-music tradition while conveying deep Christian truths. But that's the approach used by Aradhna, a group of American and English musicians who have spent significant portions of their lives in central Asia. (Lead singer Chris Hale, for example, was raised in Nepal, where his parents were missionaries, and later served as a missionary to India with OM International.)" Source

Anglican Angst

A good article in The Christian Century on "Anglican Angst" and the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA, connected with Rwanda's Anglican Church) and their leaving the Episcopal Church. The result, at least around Chicago, has been split after split after split.

Read it here.

Here is the concluding paragraph:

Theologians from Augustine onward have insisted that the effort to leave one church to start a better one results not in a better church but a worse one—and it also fosters the bad habit of defection. The history of Western Christendom attests to the wisdom of this view. The question for the Anglican Mission in the Americas is whether antagonism toward the Episcopal Church is enough to shape a coherent Anglican identity in a complex global setting.

Bad Vicar

Oh, the good ole' days!

Some of the best lines:

"Where back." "Who?" "The incredibly horrible and twisted people who are still unaccountably vicars."

"...my wife's entitled to her opinion." "Aren't you all entitled to your half assed musings of the divine? You've thought about eternity for twenty five minutes and think you've come to some interesting conclusions. Well, let me tell you, I stand with 2,000 years of darkness, and bafflement, and hunger behind me. My kind have harvested the souls of a million peasants and I couldn't give a hateme jizz for you Interest assembled philosophy."

She is a "star"...

So, I went home a couple weekends ago to see my new nephew, Josef (yes, with an "f" and not a "ph"). He was cute, of course.

An added bonus - I got to see my four year old niece, Ella, in her first dance recital. Let me just say, well, it was the most interesting performance I saw that night.

If you want to see her in all her glory, click here or here. She is the one on the far right (if it does not become obvious).

Rosie Thomas

What are we telling our children?

On February 12th in Oxnard, California, 8th grader Larry asked his friend Brandon to be his valentine. Brandon killed him. What are we telling our children? What are we teaching our children?

Via: Christan, gay, and confused

Taxes

Bar Stool Economics:

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers, he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant the men began to compare their savings.

'I only got a dollar out of the $20,'declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!'

'Yeah, that's right,' exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!'

'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!'

'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all.. The system exploits the poor!'

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, University of Georgia

Should or shouldn't

"Laws are not equivalent to ethics. They do not effectively answer questions of whether we should or shouldn't do things. Laws address whether we can do things..." (Shadow World, Kevin Guilfoile, p. 179)

This quote brings up for me images of the battles fought between the different sides of the Culture Wars - of the argument that we can't "legislate morality." Of course, all law is an attempt to "legislate morality," or at least the end result is that our laws point to a system of ethics. Of course we legislate morality, but does the legislation change the heart of man to the point that the law is made moot? No. What are the ethical arguments for the laws?

Where should the first focus be - legislation or persuasion that results in a change of heart? I believe the latter is a better first focus. Those who cannot effectively make their case in the court of public concern/opinion and who cannot persuade the majority of the correctness of their ethic to the point of personal change-of-heart and behavior often turn to the attempt to force their moral/ethical point-of-view through legislation. They may win the battle, but in they end I think the lose the war.

The problem I think the above quote gets at is that to pass a law doesn't not mean that we have dealt with the ethical questions of "should or shouldn't." To pass a law doesn't declare us moral or ethical if we haven't identified and worked through the "why" of it all.

Polls

I just came across a two interesting polls over at Christianity Today (CT) - their online site. The e-mail updates and information CT sends out regularly include links to the article and a poll. Source.

The First (most recent poll):
Do you sometimes avoid the label "evangelical?"

Yes, because I want to be simply a Christian. - 17%
Yes, because the word suggests I have political/social beliefs I disagree with. - 31%
Yes (other) - 9%
No, I embrace all the connotations of "evangelical." - 9%
No, it's a very useful term that describes my faith well. - 23%
No (other) - 8%
I'm not a born-again Christian. - 2%

Total Votes: 651

So far, over 50% answered "Yes" (readers avoid using the term "Evangelical"). It makes me wonder whether the majority of respondents are younger, since they tend to be more apt to read stuff on the Web and since they tend to be more opposed to the policies and tactics of the Religious Right. Since CT is "A Evangelical Magazine of Conviction," it seems odd that so far a majority of respondents to the poll "sometimes avoid" using the label.

The Second:
Which candidate do you support?

Hillary Clinton - 5%
John McCain - 46%
Barack Obama - 25%
Ron Paul - 15%
Other - 8%

Total Votes: 2288

The Clinton and McCain numbers do not surprise me, but look at Ron Paul! He received 15% of the vote. Considering he was the Libertarian Party candidate during the last presidential election and a Republican candidate this time around, I wonder what is going on. I'm frankly very surprised by that number. Are Evangelicals becoming more Libertarian? Historically, I think it can make sense, but considering the rise of the Religious Right I'm just surprised.

Paul Brill

The Language of God

"Davis had decided his path in the first year of medical school, but he told his mother and father that he planned to be a surgeon. His father was never churched, but he was a devout believer. An engineer, he taught his children that the purpose of life was to discover God from the inside out. The old man loved science, especially physics. The language of God was not Aramaic, or Latin, or Hebrew, or Arabic, he used to say, usually with the dismissive wave at a church or a Bible. The language of God, he'd say, is mathematics. When we reconcile the randomness of the universe with the precision of its rules, when we can see no contradiction in the chaos of nature and the equations of natural law, then we will understand his hows and whys."

(Kevin Guilfoile, Cast of Shadows, p. 139)

Star Trek

Hilliary Clinton

You know, I think she simply can't help herself. It's like an addiction to a drug. There needs to be an intervention before she completely destroys her reputation. Her insistence that she will remain in the race even when it seems most people "in the know" have concluded that she will not win the nomination points to the fact that this really is not about what is best for the country or what is best for the Democratic Party, but about her inability to accept that she will not be the first woman to have a real chance at the White House. I feel for her (and that is saying a lot). She can't let go, but if she doesn't even her role as a Senator will be irreparably compromised.

Anglicans need to choose

From The Catholic Herold (Britian)

Williams faces historic choice, says Vatican cardinal
By Anna Arco, 6 May 2008

A Vatican cardinal has said that the time has come for the Anglican Church to choose between Protestantism and the ancient churches of Rome and Orthodoxy.

Speaking on the day that the Archbishop of Canterbury met Benedict XVI in Rome, Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council of Christian Unity, said it was time for Anglicanism to "clarify its identity".

He told the Catholic Herald: "Ultimately, it is a question of the identity of the Anglican Church. Where does it belong?

"Does it belong more to the churches of the first millennium -Catholic and Orthodox - or does it belong more to the Protestant churches of the 16th century? At the moment it is somewhere in between, but it must clarify its identity now and that will not be possible without certain difficult decisions."

He said he hoped that the Lambeth conference, an event which brings the worldwide Anglican Communion together every 10 years, would be the deciding moment for Anglicanism.


Read the entire article

I agree - it is time to decide, but the decision will be Anglican. Yes, I think we are and I want to be part of the ancient Church exemplified in Rome and Constantinople rather than Protestant, but that does not mean we have to become Roman or Orthodox. We are Anglican, part of the ancient Church but different in our expression of that Faith once delivered to the saints. Just ask Anglican-Evangelicals or Anglo-Catholics which side of the divide Anglicanism rests! You will get an earful!

Via: Titusonenine

The Evangelical Manifesto

A new Evangelical Manifesto has just been released. It is an attempt by several American-Evangelical leaders to clarify what the term "Evangelical" actually means.

The Steering Committee comprised:
Timothy George - Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Os Guinness - Author/Social Critic

John Huffman - Pastor, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA Chair, Christianity Today International

Rich Mouw - President, Fuller Theological Seminary

Jesse Miranda - Founder & Director, Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership, Vanguard University

David Neff - Vice President and Editor in Chief, Christianity Today Media Group

Richard Ohman - Businessman

Larry Ross - President, A. Larry Ross Communications

Dallas Willard - Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California Author

Other signers of the manifesto include Jim Willis of Sojourners.

Not surprisingly, other prominent Evangelicals leaders such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Gary Bauer of American Values, and Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, have not signed on. IMHO, these are the Culture War groups of the Religious Right that have by degree moved from being Evangelical to being more Fundamentalist - or at least have been so compromised by seeking after political gain that they truly represent a shrinking, although still active and influential, group of people.

What are they saying???

There has been a return to the early Church Fathers by many on the Evangelical and Fundamentalist side of the American Church Universal. This is a very good thing, I think, but what do they take away from the early Fathers’ writings? In their perception and interpretation, what are they really saying?

There is this organization I came across a number of years ago. I've watched it grow over the last few years. Their emphasis on fostering a Christian Worldview is a good thing, I think. I've been teaching about the significance of "worldview" since the mid-1980's. We Americans have very limited understanding of the concept of worldview and the effects of culture on the way we understand just about everything - truth, meaning, current events, etc.

This group, Worldview Weekend, strives to teach Christians about the "Christian Worldview." When I originally heard about this group I was encouraged. "Finally," I thought, "an Evangelical Christian organization was taking seriously the concept of "worldview." But, I became suspicious when I took their "Worldview Test" to determine what my worldview actually was. I came out as a "Secular Humanist." I don't think so. Really, me, a secular humanist?

The problem begins when we think about what they consider to be a true "Christian Worldview!" What are they saying? How do they take, interpret, and apply the writings of the early Church Fathers - Polycarp, Ireneaus, Ignatius, Athanasius, Augustine, Basil, Ambrose, Tertullian, or Chrysostom.

I know the audience for this website and organization. I know the way these people think. While I'm glad they are referencing such luminary Christian thinkers, it bothers me that they use these thinkers for their own purposes. (Yes, yes, I know we all tend to do this, but this is a different kind of animal – its more propaganda than honest use of the Fathers’ teaching, I think.) The whole "worldview" of the early Christian Fathers does not fit within the "worldview" of this or like organizations and their members. My impression is that these groups selectively quote and use the early Church Fathers' writings when it suits their purposes, but I know that they will reject the basic premises of what these Christian thinkers espouse as Christian truth and praxis in so many other areas. I don't think they go to the Father's to learn, but to find justifications to their already determined perspectives. What doesn't fit, even if is essential to understanding the Fathers' purposes or premises, they simply ignore. It’s like proof-texting with the Bible.

It gives them an air of authority and understanding, but for those who do comprehend the overarching thinking of the early Church Fathers (and I'm not suggesting that I do, but I know enough to understand that they and American-Fundamentalists are not on the same page) - it just doesn't jibe. American-Fundamentalism and segments of Evangelicalism find language in the early Church Fathers' writings and interpret it according to the 21st Century, modernist, imperialist, American-Christian "worldview," not according to the actual "worldview" of the early Church Fathers. Many do this with the writings of C.S. Lewis, also. The language may sound similar, but the understanding of meaning and intent of that language is very different in too many circumstances. It makes me wonder whether they really do understand "worldview," but rather use the term to advance a particular sectarian mindset and agenda. My goodness, do they think Origin would really agree with their theological, social, or political agendas?

Anyway, go to this article on Worldview Weekend's website written by Steve Camp, the Contemporary Christian entertainer popular back in the day, entitled: Your Weekly Dose of Gospel... beware of the subtlety of spiritual treason

You may agree with him. You may not. I do agree with parts of what he says, but I'm certainly not with him. As he says, there are elements of truth in all heresy (even his own). But, I really don't think he rightly applies the teachings of the early Church Fathers. He uses them for his own purposes, incorrectly. My goodness, again, when he calls the Roman Catholic Church a demonic "angel of light," does he not know how the Church Fathers ordered themselves?

Culture Wars, con't...

I was reading some recent e-mail updates from the Religious Right Culture War groups. This particular article comes from Concerned Women for America (CWA).

In the ongoing Culture War, misinformation, defamation, mischaracterization, bearing false witness, and all that are fair game in order to achieve the end goal. The means by which the end goal is achieved no longer matters, just so the end is achieved. This may be considered acceptable behavior in the secular world these days, but it should never be acceptable within the Christian Church. Within Christianity, the means are everything. There may certainly be an end goal to achieve, but the way the struggle is conducted is everything for the Christian. When we descend into the same methods as the "world," our witness is shot, the cause of Christ is defamed, and our eternal souls are corrupted. That is exactly what the Religious Right Culture War organizations do - they engage in these methods to attempt to achieve their goals. And, the world looks on and stays as far away from the church as they can.

So, a latest round of attack concerns the "Day of Silence" (DOS) sponsored by Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). As stated on the website, here is the purpose of DOS,

"The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools... Hundreds of thousands of students came together on April 25 to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior."
The DOS has been going on for a few years now, and it always gets the ire of the Religious Right groups. This year, various Religious Right groups sponsored a walk-out to protest a schools participation in the DOS. The following article from CWA is a follow-up to the walk-out. It is an example of spreading misinformation, bearing false witness, etc., rather than relying on good, sound argument.

Frankly, sadly, it cracks me up to read the author of the following article use words like "disruption" and "freethinking." I lived over half my life in American-Evangelicalism. I'm glad I did; there is a lot of good within the tradition. However, the Religious Right groups are something different and I know how they think. They know what they are doing. Just like Karl Rove and the means he devises to win elections, these people calculate ways of winning and imposing their narrow perspective (theologically, culturally, politically), and it has nothing to do with freethinking. Their use of "spin" and propaganda is amazing.

I have no problem with people stating their views and attempting to persuade others of the rightness of their cause. The freedoms we enjoy in this country demand such activity. However, as Christians we are to be above board in all that we do and say and avoid being so influenced by our culture that we end up lying to win. That is what too many people who are a part of the Religious Right are doing, and it is wrong. It is defaming the cause of Christ and destroying our witness.

One more thing: read the comments made over at the Onenewsnow.com website where I first found out about the article. The idolatry expressed concerning the USA through unabated nationalism is too much. I love the US, but as a Christian whether this nation-state exists or not is irrelevant. The Religious Right has made an idol out of the USA.

Here is the article concerning DOS from CWA:

Enough with the 'gay' stuff!
Matt Barber - Guest Columnist - 5/5/2008 1:40:00 PM

On April 25, adult homosexual activists with the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) held their annual "Day of Silence" (DOS) propaganda push. During DOS, teachers and students in roughly 3,000 middle schools, high schools and colleges across the country are cynically used as culture war pawns in an effort to legitimize conventionally immoral, objectively deviant and demonstrably high-risk sexual behaviors.

Kids and teachers are encouraged on DOS to disrupt the school day by refusing to speak in class as a show of support to students who self-identify as "GLBT" (No, GLBT has nothing to do with bacon, lettuce and tomato; it's liberalese for "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender").

DOS purports to confront the alleged systematic harassment and bullying of sexually confused students who consider themselves "GLBT." Naturally, where there is actual bullying, anywhere, anytime, for any reason, those responsible should be firmly disciplined. However, the reality is that DOS has very little to do with "bullying" and has everything to do with pro-homosexual, anti-Christian indoctrination.

Consider that during DOS, many kids who hold time-honored traditional values relative to sexual morality (i.e., that human sexuality is a gift from God to be shared between husband and wife within the bonds of marriage) are frequently and ironically tagged as "hateful," "bigoted," and "homophobic." (Who's doing the bullying?)

But this year, something extraordinary happened on the way to the brainwashing. Kids at schools all over the country stood tall and said, "Enough is enough!" Untold thousands of students participated in a peaceful, pro-family counter effort called the "Day of Silence Walkout."

So, where did I find another prayer from our Book of Common Prayer? On the website for The Beggars Table Church in Kansas.

See for yourself. Again, perception, I think. Does this Church see those who are taking up its very book (the Lex orandi, Lex credendi of us all), reading it, and finding, finding, finding nurture for that which their soul seeks - God. Some people are running to, some people are running from. The keepers of that book - my perception is that leadership is trying to run away from that book and its Tradition. My perception is that so many others not of our tradition, our heritage, are running to it. Finding, but how can they understand without someone telling them? The sense, the feel of the ancient. The connection to that which is sure, tried, and long surviving. That which holds the heritage repudiates it, while those who seek find the heritage in the very thing repudiated.

We live in a mixed-up world.

I am going home to northern Ohio, tomorrow. I have a new nephew. I also have a meeting on Monday with my bishop on the way back to New York. I haven't had a substantive talk with him in, what?, 4 years. Even then, he inherited me so when I use the word "substantive" it is by degree. I look forward to talking to him.

In the mean time, I've been looking at data from the Diocese just for the heck of it. One element of this endeavor is to check the websites of the parishes within the diocese (if they have a website). How can a church not have a website in this-day-in-age? I just don't get it. It's like not having a telephone. But, some don't and I can only hope that their websites are in process!? Frankly, most of them are badly designed and executed, too (doesn’t have to be elaborate, but…). Ugh. What image is presented to the generations that find a church because of websites! What impression does this give of the parish? Anyway… another soapbox.

There are two economies and mentalities in the northern half of Ohio – the dying, heavy-industry, rust-belt economy/mentality and the prospering, high-tech, research economy/mentality. One is growing, one is continuing to decline. How one perceives the “reality” of Northern Ohio depends on within which sub-set one imbibes. The psycho-social and socio-economic “feel” that generally leads people in what they think and how they act can be very different. The way this leads organizations, like the Church, to perceive and conduct themselves is important to consider.

I don't quite know how to say this, but I don't really get the sense that there is much understanding (is that the right word? - perhaps "cognizance" perhaps "knowing") of the distinctions of these two sub-sets of people or the socio-economic mentalities that are associated with the "worlds" of these two groups in Ohio. I don’t get a vibe for forward-looking, prosperous thinking in many communities or the diocese (and I don’t mean the change-change-change and reject the past at all costs way of thinking) This may be very unfair of me and may only prove my own naiveté or ignorance!

Two examples: First, a very large portion of the heavy industry in the northern half of Ohio is gone. A lot of other cooperate entities have gone south. This has been a terrible blow to the economy, the livelihoods of citizens, and their sense of self. The mentality of people has certainly changed. Probably about ten years ago or so, the university system was attempting to put forth a plan to leverage the research and high-tech segments of the economy and to increase access to higher-education (understanding that retraining and an educated workforce are essential to the "new economy"). A state legislator was absolutely opposed to putting any more money into higher-education because what the state needed to do was get jobs for the unemployed. He was convinced that the industries would come streaming back into Ohio because Ohio has an abundance of water, while the Southern or Western states don't – that’s what the money should go towards. (There is some truth to this, of course, but if industries are going to move anywhere else at this point, the place will be oversees, not back to Ohio.) The mind-set of this individual did not see the growing, prosperous future that was already present in the economy or the importance of nurturing it. There are plenty of people with the same “declining” mind-set, and there are organizations that can be shown to have a very similar “collective mind-set."

The second example can be found in Akron, OH. Akron up to about 12 yeas ago was the center of the tire and rubber industry. Most all the major rubber companies and their research centers were based in Akron, despite that most of the manufacturing had gone south. Within a span of around 5 years, all the major tire-rubber corporations save one left Akron (most were bought by foreign companies). All the white-collar and blue-collar jobs were gone. The corporate sponsors of the arts and social organizations were gone. A major part of the tax base, gone. This was a city in decline, obviously. When I left Akron almost six years ago, there were 2,000 high-tech start-up companies within the city-limits alone and all revolving around polymer (rubber) research. The young, motivated, educated individuals were streaming into the city to take up the new jobs. This city was prosperous and forward-looking, obviously. What do we see?

I think that too many people still see Northern Ohio from the perspective of decline, loss of jobs and industry, loss of the glory of what we once were (a mighty industrial center of the world with good paying blue-collar jobs, security, purpose). I think too much of government and too many organizations play to it. Too many people don’t perceive the reality of the other side.

As the Church, are we able to recognize and understand both “realities,” and then rightly discern how to minister properly to both? From which well will we imbibe? If we aren't careful, we can find ourselves so narrowly focused that we lose true perspective.

Two mentalities and two realities. How easy is it not to see or understand the reality of the other side – to not want to?

This really isn’t about economics or social policy, but about perception and how that perception influences the way we conduct ourselves. It is about understanding of the “mind-set” of groups of people and being able to translate what we are and what we do so that those with that “mind-set” will be able to understand. I wonder if this might explain why the Church has such a difficult time attracting the generally younger people who are "prosperously" minded - the present Church and the way it "thinks" and “feels” just doesn't resonate with them.

A telling picture of this can be seen in the websites of parishes, I think. The churches that do attract a lot of more "prosperously" minded (and younger) people are "well done" and "look the part." Too many websites of parishes look as if they were created 10 years ago - a lifetime for website design and utilization (the iPhone to the Western Electric rotary-dial phone). Look at The Landing Place in Columbus, OH; hOME Oxford, England; Ecclesia Church in Houston; Xalt Church, Calgary, CA; Revolution Church , NYC; Jacob's Well Church, Kansas City; Church of the Apostles, Seattle; St. Clement's, Philadelphia. There are so many other good websites, but we all know the old-style, poorly done website. My own parishe’s website is not yet there, but we're working on it.

The primary medium of information and searching these days is the Web. What impression does this primary source give of the place, of the parish? I have to honestly say that if I moved to another city and started looking for a parish to attend, my first impression of most of the websites for the parishes in the Diocese, well, I don’t think I would show up on a Sunday. They simply give the impression that the place isn’t going anywhere or doing anything that I might be interested it. It is judging a book-by-the-cover, I know. Frankly, if a place is hoppin’ it doesn’t matter what the website or building or anything looks like. People go because they perceive something worthwhile is going on, but the first impression is very important. This may not be fair or right, but it is the reality. It is becoming an increasing reality with more and more people.

What can be done? I don’t know. Something as simple as understanding the importance of perception and websites and the psyche of younger people or “prospering” people (which is different than the “wealthy”) might be a good place to start.

April 2011

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